ST. LOUIS and TAMPA, Fla., May 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- In St. Louis County, more than 16% of the residents live in food-insecure households, caused by a variety of factors including a lack of transportation to full-service grocery stores. To help bring food directly into neighborhoods classified as "food deserts," Missouri Care, Inc., a WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) company, is sponsoring the St. Louis MetroMarket, a mobile food pantry that brings fruits and vegetables into neighborhoods throughout the area.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of access to enough food to enable all household members to lead an active, healthy life. Children in food-insecure homes often are part of lunch assistance programs but struggle during the summer.
"Food insecurity is associated with some of the country's most costly health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and depression," said Dr. Ronald Lopez, medical director for Missouri Care. "Children experiencing hunger face a higher risk of developmental problems, more frequent mental health problems and poorer health."
In 2016, a donated St. Louis Metro transit bus was transformed into St. Louis MetroMarket – a grocery store on wheels. MetroMarket deploys the bus into the heart of the city's most food-insecure communities, selling fresh fruits and vegetables to residents at affordable, subsidized rates. Its mission is to be a local resource for wholesome eating and provide an oasis in low-income, food desert communities.
This summer at six new MetroMarket stops, community members can earn "Missouri Bucks," to be used to shop at the market, by completing health screenings sponsored by Missouri Care. MetroMarket will also offer an incentive program called Double Up Food Bucks, which allows those shopping with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to double their money on all purchases of fruits and vegetables.
"We love our partnership with Missouri Care. As a health plan, they recognize that investing in the nutrition and overall wellness of communities is a progressive approach to doing business, and a win-win situation for the region," says Lucas Signorelli, MetroMarket executive director. "Our bus fed more than 25,000 people last year. To me, that shows how high the demand is for fresh food in these areas. Folks are tired of sub-par quality, rising prices and long drives to the grocery store. They want something that works better for them, and the MetroMarket offers a different way."
Missouri Care will kick off the summer St. Louis MetroMarket season in the Annie Malone May Day Parade on May 19 where Missouri Care associates will be passing out fruit along the parade route.
Missouri Care and WellCare serve MO HealthNet Managed Care (Medicaid) members and Medicare Prescription Drug members throughout Missouri.
About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses primarily on providing government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, as well as individuals in the Health Insurance Marketplace. WellCare serves approximately 6.3 million members nationwide as of March 31, 2019. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com.
SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.