Expectant mom, Lana Polishchuk’s special delivery arrived four months before the birth of her baby boy. It came in a cardboard box – from her health insurance company.
“I received a call from my insurance company. I was pregnant and thought they were calling with information on breastfeeding,” said Polishchuk. Instead, her insurer was calling to invite her to participate in a healthy food home delivery pilot program. “I said food? From an insurance company?!”
Food from an insurance company
Polishchuk was selected to take part in Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s maternal health food pilot program that delivers fresh food to the homes of expectant moms in their first or second trimesters. About 165 expectant moms were included in the pilot program based on a variety of factors including those in need of access to health care.
The goal is to address food insecurities, improve member health, focus on growing families and expose recipients to a variety of fresh foods. Food deliveries are made bi-weekly or monthly, depending on family size.
Coordinated by Excellus BCBS’s Bright Beginnings care management program, the year-long pilot program is a partnership with Rochester-area food bank, Foodlink, and made possible with funding from the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System.
The boxes are filled with fresh foods including seasonal fruits, vegetables, cheeses, beans, and recipes. Foodlink staff pack and deliver the boxes. Members also receive a box of cookware, including a small blender to make baby food and invitations to join cooking classes sponsored by Foodlink.
Raising healthy babies
“Raising a healthy baby begins long before childbirth,” said Jeanine Davis, Vice President of Clinical Operations at Excellus BCBS. “Providing convenient and healthy meals aligns with our goals of ensuring the best health outcomes for babies and their families in a holistic member- centric way.”
According to Davis, the goal of its Bright Beginnings program is to engage with members early in their pregnancy journey and connect them to community resources. Doing so helps address maternal morbidity, postpartum depression, preterm birth, admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit, and length of stay.
Bright Beginnings also provides direct access to a multi-disciplinary team including doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, registered dieticians, and others.
“Partnering with Excellus BCBS has allowed our Curbside Market home delivery pilot program to reach younger customers, but more importantly, it has made it easier for families to access healthy, nourishing food,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink. “
“Our Bright Beginnings team’s goal is to connect with families to reduce food insecurity, increase access to health care and decrease emergency department visits and hospital admissions or readmissions,” said Kara Traverse, manager of Excellus BCBS’s Bright Beginnings, maternal/child case management team. “It’s a great advantage to them.”
A fresh meal in the box
“When I first opened the box, I said, ‘Oh, healthy!’ This is way healthier than anything else because everything is fresh, and you’re being creative and you just follow the recipe,” said Polishchuk.
A working mother of four, she had a 13-year gap between her new baby and his sister. “This was something new to me. Back in the day, 14 years ago, I didn’t cook that much and there was no opportunity like this. It’s a big change and a big transition,” said Polishchuk.
Using the fresh foods and recipes help keep her on track with healthy eating. “It was very special to receive that box because it has everything to create meals. I’m always excited, it’s a fresh meal from the box. You always get vegetables. Sometimes we get a huge bag of carrots, and fresh parsley, dill, we always get options. I have high blood pressure, so I have to watch it. Everything is so fresh, it’s really easy and convenient. To come home and cook a meal in 30-45 minutes is amazing,” says Polishchuk.
Cooking for the future
Home prepared meals not only promote good health, but the pilot program also helps promote a healthy lifestyle. Polishchuk says her 13-year-old daughter was a fast-food lover and now enthusiastically helps prepare meals. “It means a lot because when you make homemade food, it’s healthy eating. As a teenager, it gives her inspiration to help and learn how to cook. She loves to cook now and loves to do it together, with me, learning to cook for the future. It’s amazing, it’s very special for our family.”
Watch the video to learn how the program has impacted Lana and her family: https://youtu.be/DM3ntJmR2Jw