TAMPA, Fla., June 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- On behalf of WellCare of Florida, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG), the WellCare Community Foundation announced today it donated $2,500 to the Pinellas Sheriff's Police Athletic League (PAL) to support the nonprofit's urban farm, which is designed to supply healthy fruits and vegetables to children, families and seniors living in Pinellas County's underserved communities.
The urban farm is a new, collaborative effort between PAL and the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension. The farm sits on a 1/3 of an acre off 46th Avenue in the unincorporated community of Lealman, one of the county's most impoverished areas. Lealman is considered a food desert, defined as an area lacking fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy whole foods due to an absence of grocery stores and farmers markets.
Pinellas County ranks below the state average in access to healthy foods for people who are low income and who do not live close to a grocery store, according to County Health Rankings & Roadmap, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The urban farm's harvest will be used to increase access to healthy food for families of at-risk children participating in PAL's after-school program and those who have low-food access in Lealman and across Pinellas County.
"WellCare's donation is changing our farm from concept to reality," said Neil Brickfield, executive director of PAL. "We are using the funds to purchase plantings for our fall crops. Today, we are growing about 1,200 plantings. In the fall we will have 12,000 plantings, and strawberries will be our lead crop."
The farm's harvest is currently donated to local nonprofits, churches and food banks, Brickfield said. Children who attend PAL's after-school program have been visiting the urban farm to help pick vegetables and learn about farming and the importance of healthy eating. Brickfield is working on a formal food distribution system for the fall.
"A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check," said Dr. Al Smith, WellCare of Florida's senior medical director. "WellCare is proud to support the Pinellas Sheriff's Police Athletic League in helping people to get the nutrition they need to get and stay healthy, and to strengthen a community very much in need."
As of March 31, 2016, WellCare serves approximately 772,000 Medicaid members, 57,000 Florida Healthy Kids members, 92,000 Medicare Advantage members and 31,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Florida.
About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. The company serves approximately 3.7 million members nationwide as of March 31, 2016. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com or view the company's videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/WellCareHealthPlan.
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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.