Blue Cross Fuels Innovative Mobile Food Markets

 Blue Cross Fuels Innovative Mobile Food Markets

Elisha Project brings nutritious foods to underserved neighborhoods

PROVIDENCE, RI (April 27)—Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) has established a partnership with Elisha Project, a food rescue organization that prevents food waste while supplying nutritious foods to Rhode Islanders experiencing food insecurity.

“This is an exciting new partnership for us,” said Managing Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Carolyn Belisle. “Elisha’s mission dovetails perfectly with our goal of comprehensive health and well-being for all Rhode Islanders. Access to healthy food is a critical driver of whole health, and Blue Cross is committed to increasing access to nutrition and other resources Rhode Islanders need to achieve their best health.”

Elisha Project Co-Founder George Ortiz concurred. “We are not a traditional food pantry,” he said. “Elisha focuses on rescuing fresh foods, especially protein, vegetables, and fruits, foods that are in scarce supply for the people who need them most. We recognize the tremendous health benefits of eating fresh food. People who are struggling socio-economically are often relegated to eating pre-packaged and inexpensive food high in sugar and saturated fats. These limited options can lead to dangerous health conditions like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Fresh, nutritious food is expensive. With its emphasis on keeping Rhode Islanders healthy, Blue Cross is a logical – and welcome – partner for the Project.”

The Project distributes food through its monthly share markets, which are currently held as drive-up events. Dates for the share markets for the remainder of 2022 are the following Saturdays (locations are not yet final except for the market on 4/30 at 786 Elmwood Avenue in Providence): 4/30, 5/21, 6/18, 7/16, 8/20, 9/17, 10/22, 11/19, and 12/24. While patrons may have to wait in line, Ortiz and his crew of volunteers do their best to ensure hassle-free services. Each family of four can be expected to receive approximately 25 lbs. of nutritious, fresh food including protein, fruits, and vegetables, in addition to other needed household items like diapers and personal care items. Recipients can also find recipe cards in English and Spanish, to provide suggestions for preparing the food they receive.

The Project depends on volunteers to pack boxes and bags for share markets, to drive trucks and perform other tasks. In the past three years, more than 150,000 people have followed the Project on its three social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter – where the Project also recruits its volunteers – and every market “sells out.” At the March 23 market, more than 45,000 pounds of food and other items were distributed. “We had nothing left over,” notes Ortiz.

In addition to BCBSRI, the Project partners with local colleges and universities and local businesses. A longstanding partner is Seven Stars Bakery, which loans the Project warehouse space in Pawtucket.

Ortiz explains that the Project goes beyond distributing food to instilling a sense of hope in people who depend on its services. “We’re dignity dealers,” says Ortiz, who has experienced homelessness himself and is determined to help Elisha patrons to overcome their difficult challenges. “We’re just sharing what we have,” he says.

Interested volunteers and potential partners may reach out to Lisha Gomes, director of corporate strategy and engagement.

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