New Venture Advisors is privileged to work alongside powerful forces driving progress toward building food systems we can all be proud of. These forces—our collaborators, partners, clients, visionaries—are leaders in changing how we think about and act regarding food. In this Forces for Good Food series, we voice our gratitude for and spotlight the people and organizations who are creating valuable, lasting food system impact.
One such organization is Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. We recently participated in their Community Health Academy, a learning collaborative of leaders from across the state of Idaho about policy changes that can support community health. Since the Idaho communities participating in the Community Health Academy were from small and mid-sized communities, many of them rural, we really had to stretch our research muscles to find great examples of small towns across the Midwest and Mountain West doing transformative food systems work. You can read about a few of them here.
We were so inspired by the experience, we reached out to Courtney Frost, Senior Program Officer at Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health (BCIFH) to learn about why they, as funders, are interested in supporting good local food policies.
NVA: So, why is Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health funding policy/systems/environment changes in food systems?
BCIFH: We’re committed to creating a healthier Idaho by addressing root causes that impact health. The intention of focusing on policy/systems/environment (PSE) changes is the ability to reach a larger audience and have a greater impact. The CDC’s graphic illustrates this concept. It shows that counseling and educational efforts generally have a smaller impact because they’re reaching one person at a time, whereas as we work our way down the pyramid—and begin focusing on PSE—we can have a bigger impact. One of our goals is to create sustainable and transformational change that will last for generations. We have worked with local communities for many years through mobilization grants and learning collaboratives that include a food-systems focus. Funding and partnering around food systems helps create healthy food options in Idaho communities that are sustainable.
NVA: How will addressing food systems advance health in Idaho cities and counties?
BCIFH: Access to healthy, affordable food is a major driver of health outcomes. Supporting that access, as well as food education, is a focus of our work with local communities. Idaho has a rich farming and agricultural history, as well as a grow-your-own food culture. Food systems can be a tough topic, but it is one that is embedded in our state’s culture.
NVA: And what are some impacts you’re already seeing from this work?
BCIFH: Idaho communities are creative and passionate in increasing access to healthy foods, and we’ve seen unique and innovative solutions. Some cities include a budget to support farmers markets, while others create edible landscaping in city parks. There has been support of community kitchens and expanding home gardening policies. Mobile farmers markets and partnerships with local businesses around health education are creating lasting impacts.
Image: Source: Frieden T. Am J Public Health; 2010; 100(4)