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McDowell County food bank to receive matching donation gift for high tunnel greenhouse

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (March 4, 2016) — Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia today announced that it would match funds raised by the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank in McDowell County, to build a high tunnel greenhouse. In addition to helping Five Loaves and Two Fishes offer fresh, locally grown produce to the community, the high tunnel structure, which is a minimally-heated, plastic-covered greenhouse, will also enable the food bank to become more sustainable by extending its growing season.

Highmark West Virginia is committing up to $4,500 for this project by matching dollar-for-dollar donations beginning March 1 until the $15,000 goal is reached. Nearly $6,000 has been raised toward the campaign goal since it launched in December 2015.

"With the recent closure of several coal mines and Walmart in McDowell County, it's important that residents in need have access to fresh, healthy food," said Highmark West Virginia President Fred Earley. "As a West Virginia-based company with more than 75 years of service to the residents of this state, Highmark West Virginia has a longstanding history of being here for individuals and families in the communities we serve. Supporting this initiative is the right thing to do for the residents of McDowell County, and I encourage other businesses to do the same."

Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank has served the residents of McDowell County for more than seven years through monthly food distributions. The food bank also operates a community garden, which provides fresh produce to supplement its monthly food distributions to community members in need. It also serves as a learning tool for community members, teaching them the skills necessary to grow their own food. In 2015, Five Loaves and Two Fishes served 3,753 families consisting of 10,263 individuals.

"Five Loaves and Two Fishes is extremely grateful to Highmark West Virginia for this generous gift, which puts us closer to reaching our goal of obtaining a high tunnel greenhouse," said Joel McKinney, owner of Roadside Farms, a partner of Five Loaves and Two Fishes. "Through alternative growing methods such as hydroponic towers, raised beds and aquaponics, the high tunnel will allow us to extend our growing season and provide fresh, locally grown food to those in need in our community year round."

In 2014, the Highmark Foundation awarded a large grant to the McDowell CHOICES project, a program aimed to increase exercise for students in McDowell County. With the funding of the one-year grant, every K-12 student in the county was provided with greater access to a wide range of physical activity programs in an effort to meet the national recommendation of 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

For more information or to make a donation to the high tunnel greenhouse fund, visit www.gofundme.com/fiveloaves.

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia serves approximately 290,000 customers through the company's health care benefits business and also serves tens of thousands of additional members through the Blue Card program. Highmark West Virginia employs more than 750 people with offices in Parkersburg, Charleston and Wheeling. Highmark West Virginia is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

For more information, contact:
Kristy Cramlet
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia
304-424-9888
kristy.cramlet@highmarkhealth.org