Economic Stability for Individuals and Families

So many factors of comfort and health in daily life come back to economic stability and the availability of resources for meeting basic needs. Prioritizing the needs of our most vulnerable community members can look like helping them eat balanced, nutritious meals, providing access to housing and transportation, and encouraging the development of skills needed to pursue education and job opportunities.

Driving Hunger Out of Communities: Improving Food Access and Affordability

Breaking The Cycle of Poverty Through Self-Sufficiency and Care Coordination

Stabilizing Housing, Strengthening Community Health

Community Action: Achieving Long-Term Stability and Leading Healthy, Productive Lives

Women speaking

Driving Hunger Out of Communities: Improving Food Access and Affordability

Improving community health and economic stability often means starting with the basic, everyday necessities that impact people’s ability to succeed and live healthy, meaningful, and productive lives. Many families spend significant time worrying about where their next meal is coming from, and how they will be able to access and afford it.

Food insecurity, defined as the lack of consistent access to adequate food, affects millions of people nationwide every day, as nearly 34 million Americans are estimated to live in food-insecure households. Individuals and families of color, and those affected by poverty and other social factors, experience food insecurity at disproportionate rates.

We have a long history of supporting programs that address the root causes of food insecurity and empowering community partners by investing in community gardens, farmers markets, and grassroots organizations so that underserved communities get the food they need. We anticipate our 2023 support will provide more than 430,000 individuals across our footprint with access to healthy food.

Our employees take a boots-on-the-ground approach to fighting food insecurity through volunteering at food banks year-round and giving and raising funds through programs like the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community or the United Way Campaign.

We have funded partner organizations like Bright Spot Farm, Massachusetts Avenue Project, and Soul Fire Farm, three organizations that are deeply entrenched in the communities they serve and committed to providing equitable and sustainable solutions to economic and food-related challenges.

In 2023, we worked with Philabundance, a Philadelphia-based food bank, as one of the sponsors of its 26th Camp Out for Hunger food drive in Philadelphia.

This annual, week-long event is the nation’s largest single-site food drive, and an opportunity for community members and individuals from across the region to support Philabundance’s mission of driving hunger out of communities and ending hunger for good, by donating non-perishable food or funds.

The 2023 Camp Out for Hunger yielded huge successes for Philabundance and its cause. Participants donated over 1 million dollars and 12 truckloads of food to individuals and families in need.

We look forward to supporting programs that help even more people receive healthy meals and food services in the years to come.

Breaking The Cycle of Poverty Through Self-Sufficiency and Care Coordination

Living in poverty can impact every aspect of a person's life, from food and housing to access to mental health services and career and educational opportunities. Worrying about these barriers can take a tremendous toll on individuals — especially when they have family and loved ones struggling as well — and prevent them from functioning in healthy and productive ways.

The Western New York region sees high rates of rural poverty, as many families in that area face barriers to transportation, health care, food, housing, and other essential needs. Rural Outreach Center's (The ROC) work is focused on breaking the cycle of rural poverty by accompanying people toward self-sufficiency through a variety of programs for children and adults.

There are over 45,000 people in poverty in The ROC's service areas in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Wyoming counties, and the organization strives to meet the overwhelming needs of rural demographics in the region through counseling, play therapy, and care coordination services geared around five core activities: minimizing charity and optimizing empowerment in everything they do; breaking the cycle of rural poverty by emphasizing a two-generation approach; serving rural populations through wrap-around, centralized services; collaborating with other agencies to avoid duplication of services; and measuring and monitoring outcomes based on the social determinants of health.

We’re providing funding support to help The ROC advance its holistic, wrap-around approach to addressing social determinants of health (SDOH) needs related to the high incidence of domestic violence, suicide, and chronic disease among rural demographics.


Stabilizing Housing, Strengthening Community Health

Year after year, as our footprint continues to grow, and we explore fruitful partnerships with organizations that align with our values and service areas, we remain committed to discovering new ways to tackle one of the biggest Community Health issues: a lack of safe and affordable housing.

Pennsylvania's 2023 Allegheny County Point-In-Time Count for regional homelessness revealed an increase of at least 127 more individuals staying in emergency shelters in 2023 and at least 50 more individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness than in 2022. There's an ever-growing need for housing stability and support in all our regions, and we actively work to uplift organizations that are addressing this issue head-on.

Last year we focused on one of our projects addressing housing instability, which involved a partnership with Sisters of St. Joseph (SSJ) Neighborhood Network, an organization in Northwestern Pennsylvania that focuses on personal growth and neighborhood revitalization. One of SSJ's heartwarming community impact stories was its achievement of helping a Bhutanese family of first-time homebuyers purchase a house in Erie, Pennsylvania.

This year, we will talk more about how we are working with the Hilltop Economic Development Corporation (HEDC), another organization focused on providing housing and business revitalization solutions to strengthen vulnerable communities. HEDC specifically serves Pittsburgh’s Knoxville neighborhood and the Borough of Mt. Oliver.

At the beginning of each year, HEDC sets out to accomplish several goals related to property stabilization and housing through its Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) efforts. The results of the organization's on-the-ground, community-focused approach speak volumes about its impact on housing stability and invigorating neighborhoods and local businesses. Last year, HEDC resolved 295 property maintenance issues — far surpassing its goal of 40. HEDC also completed 25 home repair projects, facilitated 10 commercial property renovations, and supported 25 new and existing businesses through grants.

James, a resident of one of HEDC's service neighborhoods, spoke highly of the organization’s repair work on his house.

"HEDC provided safe construction on my rugged back porch. There is no way I could have done this financially, and there's no way I could have done this physically. The porch was very unsafe the way it was, and I am very thankful for all their help."

Our support has enabled HEDC to strengthen its impact on the lives of individuals like James, and its imprint on larger communities in need of safe and affordable housing, to affect change in the Knoxville and Mt. Oliver areas for years to come.

Smiling boy

Community Action: Achieving Long-Term Stability and Leading Healthy, Productive Lives

Ending poverty isn't something that can be accomplished through the work of a few experts and individuals; it requires an all-hands-on-deck, community action approach. South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP), an organization that has served the Gettysburg and Chambersburg regions of Pennsylvania for more than 58 years, brings communities and partners together in its wide-reaching, collaborative efforts to improve the lives of individuals living in poverty.

Highmark Wholecare has provided both financial and volunteer support to enhance SCCAP's service line of food, housing, early childhood supports and creating relationships across race and class lines that allow everyone to share their strengths — this allows families to create and build a new bright future story leading to long-term stability.

SCCAP’s mission aligns closely with Highmark's focus on Community Health, and it is designed to help individuals access their most basic needs — food, shelter and transportation — to live healthy and productive lives and improve their employment status and financial literacy.

Rather than dictating what services families need, SCCAP works alongside its families to develop effective strategies that will help them meet their goals in areas of education, employment, bridging capital, health, nutrition and improvement to their home and living environment. The organization's range of services allows it to respond to the unique needs of each family and individual it serves, whether they be developing soft or hard career skills, or accessing a food pantry to pick up nutritious meals for themselves and their children, staff instill hope of a brighter future.

"Ever since I came here (to the pantry and produce stand), since money is short everywhere, I have had additional access to produce that I wouldn't otherwise. It has helped me keep my weight down. I am grateful for the program." Jeffrey

SCCAP has left a meaningful and measurable impact on the lives of many vulnerable individuals in its service areas. Through its support of struggling populations like low-wage earners and seniors on a fixed income, the organization touches the lives of more than 17,000 individuals annually, and contributed to a growing social infrastructure that enables individuals and families to not only survive, but to thrive. As Rochelle said, "My family did the hard work to overcome poverty but the support I received was invaluable, it was priceless!"