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Front row left to right: Sarah Patrick, medical director, WVU Medicine Population Health; Douglass Harrison, president and CEO, WVU Medicine Wheeling and Reynolds Memorial Hospitals;Stacy Castello, Food for Mountaineers enrollment coordinator; Yvonne Cook, president, Highmark Foundation; Jim Fawcett, president, Highmark West Virginia; Cathy McAlister, executive director, Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health Second row left to right: Chris McCormick, director, WVU Medicine Population Health; Albert L. Wright, Jr., president and CEO, WVU Health System; Aaron Henry, vice president of ambulatory operations, WVU Medicine Berkeley and Jefferson Medical Centers; Nebeyou Abebe, SVP Social Determinants of Health, Highmark Health, Jason Landers, president, Highmark Health Options West Virginia.

Highmark Foundation announces $1 million grant to Food for Mountaineers Program

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – The Highmark Foundation today (March 13) announced a $1 million grant over two years to support Food for Mountaineers. Through this innovative collaboration, patients facing food insecurity will be provided prefunded debit cards to purchase nutritious food at Kroger, Walmart, and Dollar General.

“Food insecurity lives in every community, exacerbating health inequities,” said Nebeyou Abebe, senior vice president, social determinants of health of Highmark Health. “Addressing social barriers to health, like food insecurity, is paramount to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.”

“This is part of our long-term commitment to improving the whole person health of West Virginians,” said Jim Fawcett, president of Highmark West Virginia. “Highmark and WVU Medicine have worked together for years to create environments that make people fully healthy – mentally, physically, and socially, and we’re pleased to continue building on those efforts with today’s announcement.”

In the United States, social factors, or social determinants of health, the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, can impact up to 80 percent of someone’s health. Food insecurity is one of those factors and contributes to several chronic conditions.

“Health-related social needs, like food insecurity, are significant drivers to overall health outcomes,” Sarah Patrick, WVU Medicine Population Health medical director, said. “We are thrilled to work with the Highmark Foundation and InComm Healthcare to provide improved access to nutritious food, so that patients can focus more on their health.”

Food for Mountaineers will serve community members receiving care in the Eastern and Northern panhandles of the state. It builds on an earlier grant by The Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health to support a similar collaboration with healthcare providers in the Huntington and Charleston regions. Through InComm Healthcare restricted use debit cards, eligible individuals will be able to purchase nourishing food at Kroger, Walmart, and Dollar General locations.

“This is an exciting partnership with WVU Medicine and its population health department,” said Yvonne Cook, president of the Highmark Foundation. “This opportunity allows us to advance food insecurity efforts in West Virginia and continues the Highmark Foundation’s commitment to supporting key drivers of health in the community.”

“Supplemental benefit funds are an effective way to promote healthy options in communities, and we are honored to help make this offering a reality with our payments solution platform,” said Dave Etling, senior vice president and general manager for InComm Healthcare. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Highmark Health and improving access to healthier foods throughout the region.”

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