By Erin Meade
On February 16, Kaiser Permanente joined DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) in accepting one of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s inaugural Healthy10 Awards, which recognize significant cross-sector collaborations between local businesses and non-profit partners to improve community wellness and economic opportunity. Maritha Gay, Executive Director of External Affairs and Community Benefit, joined DCCK CEO Mike Curtin, Jr., at a luncheon celebrating all awardees.
The award recognizes the Healthy Corners program, a pioneering venture that is sustainably expanding healthy food access in DC’s food deserts. DCCK delivers fresh produce and healthy snacks to corner stores in DC’s low-income communities, offering them produce at wholesale prices and in smaller quantities than a conventional distributor. The stores then sell the produce at below-market prices, making it an affordable option for the consumer. Instead of just giving away food, this innovative program has demonstrated significant demand in low-income communities for fresh, affordable food options in corner stores.
Initially launched in 2011 with financial and technical support from Kaiser Permanente, Healthy Corners exists to create more equitable access to healthy and local food options for residents of Wards 5, 7 and 8 and to develop and enhance new best practices for promoting healthy behaviors among at-risk children and families. Kaiser Permanente also helped DC Central Kitchen forge critical partnerships with the government of the District of Columbia to fully leverage existing policies promoting public health and small business development in support of Healthy Corners. Since that time, this partnership has developed and scaled this innovative approach in underserved food-desert communities through the Healthy Corners program.
“This award is particularly meaningful for us at Kaiser Permanente because it recognizes the commitment we share with DC Central Kitchen to improving the health of the communities we serve,” said Maritha Gay, executive director of External Affairs and Community Benefit for Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States. “We thank DC Central Kitchen for being outstanding partners in total health, and we thank the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for recognizing this effort to bring healthy food to underserved communities.”
The award also got recognition from Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO, Bernard J. Tyson: “What an amazing honor for our Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States and longtime partners, DC Central Kitchen. The environment is a critical piece of improving total health care. Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping everyone within the communities we serve gain access to healthy foods. Congrats on this recognition and I look forward to the continued impact you all are making,” he posted on his LinkedIn page.
Unlike some charitable solutions to improve healthy food access, Healthy Corners isn’t a giveaway. Rather than hand-outs of free food, the program puts healthy, local food for sale in underserved neighborhoods, and through relevant outreach and marketing, empowers residents to eat and shop in healthier ways where they live, learn and play.
John Vu, Vice President of Strategy for Community Benefit also attended the Health Means Business Summit. Vu was featured as an expert in a breakout, “Exploring the Intersect between Health Communities and Economic Vitality.” The panel also featured experts from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, PepsiCo, Aramark, and FitWorth.
Watch DCCK CEO Mike Curtin, Jr.’s acceptance remarks below.