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Excellus $5,000 grant helps Herkimer County battle food insecurity

By Journal Staff (news@cnybj.com)

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Herkimer County HealthNet has received a $5,000 Excellus BlueCross BlueShield grant to support Cornell Cooperative Extension of Herkimer County’s Veggie Van. From left to right are: Excellus Community Investments and Partnerships Manager Shayna Keller, Cornell Cooperative Extension Nutrition Team Leader Cameron Burke, Herkimer County HealthNet Executive Director Elyse Enea, Excellus Regional President Eve Van de Wal, and Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Garet Livermore.

HERKIMER, N.Y. — Herkimer County HealthNet announced it has received a $5,000 Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Health and Wellness Award.

The awards focus on “community investments” to support programs and initiatives that improve health and health outcomes for community members.

Herkimer County HealthNet will contribute the funds to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County Veggie Van program that will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to communities in the county. 

“We are thankful to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for their funding and support of the Veggie Van,” Herkimer County HealthNet Executive Director Elyse Enea said in a Herkimer County HealthNet release. “Creative solutions are necessary to ensure our most vulnerable community members have access to quality nutrition.”

According to a report released in February by the New York State Department of Health, Herkimer County has the highest percentage of adults, at 28 percent, who experience food insecurity. That uncertainty can lead to a higher probability of chronic diseases including hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and more.

“This support from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield will enable us to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved communities in Herkimer County this growing season,” Cornell Cooperative Extension of Herkimer County Executive Director Garet Livermore said. “It will also help build business for our region’s farmers who are growing healthy produce that is not available to many of our residents. Additionally, the Veggie Van will bring university-developed nutrition programs to these sites through Cornell’s FMNP and SNAP-Ed programs so that our families know how to make the most of their food dollars.”

The Veggie Van will help address food security, promote equitable food access, and work toward a sustainable and diverse local food system.

“Our goal for this program is to reduce food insecurity in Herkimer County, make fresh produce accessible, and provide a space for educational opportunities,” BlueCross BlueShield Regional President Eve Van de Wal said. “Impacting the communities we serve by supporting programs that combat food insecurity is core to our mission as a nonprofit health plan. We are proud to help provide funding for the Veggie Van program because it helps provide essential, healthy nutrition to the people of Herkimer County.”

The mission of Herkimer County HealthNet is to improve the health and well-being of individuals who live, work, play, and learn in Herkimer County, the organization says.

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