iHeartMedia, Empire BlueCross BlueShield partner with Common Threads to Increase Food Security and Nutrition Equity in New York

Brooklyn’s Walter Weaver Elementary hosts free food distribution event and cooking demonstration to celebrate expanded collaboration

iHeartIMPACT, Empire BlueCross BlueShield, and Common Threads hosted a food distribution event with the New York Liberty at P.S. 398 Walter Weaver Elementary School in Brooklyn, providing hundreds of students with bags of fresh produce and a cooking demonstration from Common Threads instructors on how to prepare a healthy meal. (Photo: Business Wire)

NEW YORK--()--iHeartMedia and Empire BlueCross BlueShield partnered with non-profit Common Threads to provide hands-on culinary programming focused on ‘food as medicine’ yesterday in Brooklyn, extending their multi-year partnership to increase food security and nutrition equity in underserved communities.

More than 1.5 million New York City residents, and one in three children, experience food insecurity. iHeartMedia, Empire BlueCross BlueShield, and Common Threads are launching culturally responsive, hands-on food as medicine programming at P.S. 398 Walter Weaver Elementary in Brooklyn to help students and families access nutritious food and build skills to prepare meals that can improve their health outcomes.

Just last year, Empire funded the development of a permanent food pantry at the school, which has hosted recurring food distributions for local families. The incorporation of Common Threads into the partnership extends programming at the school to include ongoing cooking classes and nutrition education for Walter Weaver students and families.

To celebrate this expansion, the organizations hosted a food distribution to provide fresh produce for hundreds of families, alongside a cooking class with Food Bank for New York City to teach participants how to prepare a healthy meal. Attendees included Common Threads Director of Development, Emily Conrath, Brooklyn native and co-host of iHeartMedia’s Elvis Duran & the Morning Show, Skeery Jones, the New York Liberty, and leadership from Empire.

We’re proud to have built the food pantry here at Walter Weaver last year, and it means so much to us to be able to come back this year to support programs that are teaching the students and their families how to use these resources to eat and enjoy healthy food,” says Bernie Weiss, President, iHeartMedia Multiplatform Group - New York. “We’re grateful to Empire and Common Threads teams for making critical programs like these sustainable and accessible to the families that need them the most.”

Globally, one of every five deaths is attributable to a suboptimal diet, while diets rich in fruits and vegetables can significantly lower risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Deficiencies in certain nutrients may exacerbate mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Students with a healthy, balanced diet are more likely to have stronger immune systems, lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, and live longer. A healthy diet can boost brain function and improve mood to make learning optimal.

Food insecurity has significant detrimental effects on health, especially in children, and can leave devastating, long-lasting impacts across communities, so it is critical we develop and implement culturally response, hands-on programming and food distributions for our neighbors who need it most,” said Mark Levy, MD, president, Empire BlueCross BlueShield HealthPlus. “This latest partnership reflects Empire’s ongoing support for strategic, innovative opportunities that address the health needs of some of some of our most vulnerable, underserved communities in New York.”

Food is truly at the heart of our communities, and when we announced the opening of the food pantry at P.S. 398 last year, we specifically talked about doing it with heart and soul. That’s why, as part of our mission to improve the health of all New Yorkers we are announcing this new partnership with Common Threads to take our commitment one step further,” said Alan J. Murray, president & CEO, Empire BlueCross BlueShield in New York.

Common Threads’ nutrition education curriculum teaches students the tools to identify and cook with affordable and healthy ingredients, increase their vegetable, fruit, whole grain, and lean protein intake, and lower their sugar intake. The curriculum embeds culturally relevant content and teaching practices to effectively increase students’ knowledge and skills to cook nutritious meals at home and improve their physical and mental health outcomes.

Common Threads has integrated healthy eating into schools and communities taking an innovative approach to culturally responsive cooking and nutrition education,” says Common Threads Executive Director Linda Novick O’Keefe. “Cooking is a joyful way to improve our relationships with food no matter how old you are and the simple acts of selecting and preparing healthy meals supports and improves good health and well-being and eliminates preventable diseases.”

About iHeartIMPACT & Empire BlueCross BlueShield Partnership

iHeartIMPACT is a division of iHeartMedia that focuses on aligning brands with nonprofit organizations. Empire BlueCross BlueShield and its affiliated companies are working with iHeartIMPACT to support a series of nutrition education programs in a total of six schools across Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Indianapolis. This partnership with national health and wellness organization, Common Threads, is an extension of the companies' multi-year commitment to addressing food insecurity and whole-health for communities across the country.

About Common Threads

Common Threads is a national nonprofit that provides children and families with cooking and nutrition education, striving to equip communities with the necessary information to make affordable, nutritious, and appealing food choices wherever they live, work, learn, and play. By December 31,2029 they committed to distributing 1,447,000 nutritious meals and snacks, and 1,228,500 hours of nutrition education. They aim to tackle the critical issues of limited access to healthy foods and nutrition-related health disparities in communities by reaching over 260,000 participants in low-income households across the United States, to offer culturally relevant nutrition education and hands-on cooking skills at community centers including schools, community organizations, and healthcare providers.

For more information about Common Threads visit commonthreads.org.


Michael Perry

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Michael Perry