We received two anonymous tips about the Advancing Healthy Food Equity initiative at the BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation. This program, which is “part of an overall commitment to increase equity access to healthy food,” offers the opportunity for ten organizations to receive $300,000 over three years. But here’s the catch: Only non-profit organizations with specific race/ethnicity-based characteristics are eligible. Here’s what the BCBSNC Foundation requires of these non-profit entities to be considered for funding: “Led by, serving, and accountable to American Indian, Black, Latino, other People of Color, and members of immigrant communities that have been impacted by inequities in access to healthy food.”
To provide clarity on the grant’s background and eligibility criteria, BCBSNC Foundation held an informational webinar on January 31, 2023, which reiterated the standards that must be met:
- The executive director or CEO is American Indian, Black, Latino, other Person of Color, or from an immigrant community.
- The community served is primarily American Indian, Black, Latino, other People of Color, or members of immigrant communities as demonstrated by the demographic of those directly impacted by an organization’s programming.
- The staff, board, or coalition leadership reflect the community served.
However, Healthy Food Director Merry Davis wanted to ensure that the criterion for the CEO of the applying organization was crystal clear:
We have received questions about eligibility from organizations that have a majority people of color staff, and staff leadership, and white CEO. So given the spirit of this opportunity Sheila and I shared earlier, these organizations are not eligible for this particular opportunity.
The BCBSNC Foundation further defines its commitment to promoting equity over equality in its Racial Equity Commitment for “addressing structural racism and creating more equitable opportunities for health.”
The Foundation claims that health equity means “a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.” But what is fair and just about excluding specific groups of people from access to healthy food on the basis of race and ethnicity? And just because an otherwise eligible organization has a CEO whose race happens to be white, it can’t be considered? North Carolinans and BlueCross BlueShield members need to ask the BCBSNC Foundation why they are funding a racially discriminatory grant program.Have you seen healthcare-related grant opportunities with discriminatory eligibility criteria? Please let us know via our secure online portal.
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