From ThinkAnthem.com

When her neighbors are in need, LaShauna is quick to lend a helping hand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, with many residents facing food insecurity for the first time, she helped deliver donated food directly to her neighbors’ front doors.

“We knocked on 350 doors and delivered food boxes and resources to every one of the residents in that area,” she said.

LaShauna is co-president of ML & Trip Outreach Center in Indianapolis, one of the organizations involved in a substantial food canvassing effort last April. The outreach center, a collaboration with her husband Fletcher, is a trauma-focused, multi-layered community center, especially for at-risk youth. It offers programs, resources, mentoring, mental health support, and alternative education in a safe learning environment.

Increasing food access in the community is another key component of the mission.

“Food insecurity is also a trauma and anything with trauma can cause us to have other issues like mental health, stress and behavior issues,” LaShauna said. “Our focus on increasing food access will also help our youth be more productive in school… as well as alleviate some of the stressors on their families making those hard choices over whether they’re going to pay a bill or try to buy some nutritious food for their families.”

At Anthem, we know that to address the whole health of our members and communities, we need to take a broader view of health. And as such, we believe that food is medicine and consistent access to nutritious food is an essential part of maintaining and achieving whole-person health. Based on a commitment to improve nutritious food access and build a more equitable food system in our communities, the Anthem Foundation is funding a $2.45 million grant over a three-year period to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Indianapolis to create and coordinate a holistic response to hunger at the neighborhood level. Indianapolis’ Northeast Corridor was selected to be the focal point for the Equitable Food Access Initiative.

The ML & Trip Outreach Center, located in the Northeast Corridor, has been serving the area for many years. The community-driven LISC initiative will rely on organizations rooted in the neighborhood, along with residents, community leaders, and subject matter experts, to strategize and implement food initiatives. LaShauna believes one project should involve developing a more efficient way to get nutritious food to those who need it.

“A desire of mine is to have a mobile food pantry that will be deployable at least three to four times a week, getting healthy foods directly into our community,” she said. “To be able to deploy that in a more suitable manner versus our wagon, that would be great.”

They’re making strides with the resources they have. The outreach center’s community garden provides free produce for the area, and they have multiple healthy food partnerships and initiatives, which provided the community with 7,100 pounds of produce during the pandemic. They also host a weekly food giveaway. But with food insecurity on the rise during the pandemic, there’s a constant need.

“COVID is here. People are hungry,” LaShauna said. “Every week families were lined up and we were running out of food.”

LaShauna welcomes the new initiative as a step in the right direction to remove barriers to nutritious food in her community. Every step, and every door knock, counts.

“We always want the people to come to us, but let’s go to the people,” she said.