INDIANAPOLIS - Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana has received a $100,000 grant from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation to launch the ‘Food is Medicine’ program. 

The initiative pairs Gleaners with Eskenazi Health Center Pecar to conduct food insecurity screenings and interventions, especially for people living on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

Clients of the Pecar Center are often referred to the Crooked Creek Food Pantry, which is located in the same facility as the health clinic. CCFP serves families-in-need in Pike Township and western Washington Township.

Gleaners considers that area of Marion County as a food desert, often an urban area where there’s not a convenient grocery store to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.

“Food insecurity is a critical factor in improving the overall health and well-being of individuals in the communities we serve, which is why Anthem Foundation is so proud to partner with Gleaners,” said Dr. Kimberly Roop, Medicaid Plan president at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Indiana.

Roop says food insecurity is strongly associated with poor nutrition and is linked to negative impact on health across one’s lifespan.

Eskenazi staff will screen more than 3,000 patients in the course of a year. Gleaners and Eskenazi Health have implemented a two-question screening tool into the patient’s electronic medical record. 

Eskenazi Health says when a patient screens positive for food insecurity, the provider will write a “Food is Medicine” referral to encourage the patient to visit the Crooked Creek Food Pantry.

Patients can visit the Gleaners-supported pantry twice a month and will receive a variety of produce, protein, dairy and non-perishable food items of their choice. 

“What is so incredible about this particular grant from Anthem is that it rewards innovation. There are very few restrictions, meaning we can collaborate with our local partners to develop a program and metrics that are meaningful for our local community,” said Sarah Huber, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Nutrition Manager at Gleaners

Gleaners says one in six people in Marion County struggle with hunger.  The organization has a network of 562 pantries, soup kitchens and community organizations.