ROCHESTER — Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Foodlink have teamed up to develop the “Fresh Account at Curbside Market” program.

As part of the pilot project, Excellus BCBS members with the greatest risk of food insecurity and healthcare needs receive a monthly $30 voucher for six months. Members redeem the vouchers at Foodlink’s “Fresh Account at Curbside Market” locations. The Curbside Market is Foodlink’s mobile farmers market, which provides affordable and convenient access to healthy foods in underserved communities.

Members also receive support from nutrition counselors and have the option to take part in Foodlink’s Cooking Matters nutrition education classes.

Loss of income, poverty, a person’s environment, education levels, and discrimination contribute to health risks. Known as social determinants of health, these factors can impact a person’s quality of life and well-being significantly.

“Understanding how social determinants impact our members’ health allows us to provide them with better care,” said Dr. Brian Steele, Excellus BCBS’s vice president and chief medical officer for safety net and population management. “Food insecurity, apart from the pandemic, was identified as a clear need in our community. You need a healthy diet to improve and maintain good health. This seemed to be an area where we could intervene.”

Participation in the program helps Excellus BCBS member Carl Draper extend his food budget and meet his healthcare goals.

“It brings a nice balance. I get lots of good green stuff into the mix,” Draper said. “I can make a well-rounded meal, adding fresh fruits and vegetables I can’t ordinarily get.”

“The goal is not only to help members eat healthier, it helps us engage more easily with them,” Steele said.

The pilot program launched Aug. 1 with 250 members. According to Excellus BCBS, another 250 members are expected to be enrolled later this year.

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