UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement from Do No Harm.
A BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation food equity initiative will not provide grant money to organizations that staff or serve white communities, medical watchdog group Do No Harm reported.
The BCBSNC Foundation “Advancing Healthy Food Equity” initiative is offering 10 three-year grants worth $300,000 to organizations that are “led by, serving, and accountable to American Indian, Black, Latino, other People of Color and members of immigrant communities to expand their ability to engage in advocacy for transformational changes that advance equitable access to healthy food,” according to its website. Healthy Food Director Merry Davis confirmed during a Jan. 31 information session that organizations that have a white CEO are not eligible to receive funding.
“We have received questions about eligibility from organizations that have a majority people of color staff and staff leadership, and white CEO,” she said, according to a video of the presentation posted by Do No Harm. “So given the spirit of this opportunity Sheila and I shared earlier, these organizations are not eligible for this particular opportunity.”
The criteria for the program is discriminatory, Do No Harm alleges.
“If ever there was a bad idea, the notion that we should start to separate our country along racial lines is amongst the worst,” Stanley Goldfarb, Do No Harm chairman, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The plan by the North Carolina Blue Cross Blue Shield company takes divisiveness to a new level. Even having a leader of an organization who is white is enough to prevent the entity, which apparently serves minority communities, from participating in a grant program. Do Americans really want this sort of apartheid?”
BCBSNC Foundation is an “independent entity by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina” which invested “$200 million in North Carolina through more than 1,300 grants, collaborations, and special initiatives” through two decades, its website reads. The food equity initiative funds organizations dedicated to advancing policy to combat food insecurity in the state.
“American Indian, Black, Latino, other People of Color, and members of immigrant communities are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity due to systemic barriers resulting from generations of public policies, institutional practices, and social norms creating and reinforcing inequities among racial and ethnic groups,” the initiative’s website reads. “Many organizations led by, serving, and accountable to these communities have significant experience with, and insights about, the systemic barriers to equitable access to healthy food, along with potential solutions.”
Organizations must meet three criteria to be eligible for funding. The CEO must be “American Indian, Black, Latino, other Person of Color, or from an immigrant community” and it must serve minority communities. The staff and leadership must also “reflect the community served,” according to the website.
“Additionally, nonprofits led by people of color have historically faced, and still face, significant disparities in funding by philanthropic organizations, which has deprived them of needed resources,” the website reads. “We are working to address this through explicit investment in organizations with leaders of color – a central tenet of our formal racial equity commitment.”
Davis did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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