By Chris Kiser, Executive Director, Barton Health Foundation

When we look at our community’s health, there are many factors that determine a person’s ability to thrive. Places where people live, learn, work, and play affect outcomes for health and quality of life. However, none of those can contribute to vitality without basic foundational needs like food, water, and shelter; and the absence of those may have an immediate adverse life effect.

You may be familiar with worldwide efforts that connect people with food through donations and volunteerism. However, the need for hunger relief is closer than you may think. In our community, the long-lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and even more recently, the Caldor Fire evacuations have had an adverse impact on financially fragile individuals and families, contributing to difficulty putting food on the table.

Food insecurity is defined by the lack of reliable access to nutritious food. Without nutritious food, many members in our community do not have the ability to pursue health and health equity, the belief that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

Advancing healthcare through philanthropy remains the mission of the Barton Health Foundation, which is why we engage in health equity, addressing issues such as food insecurity. Contributing to our community’s health requires hard work, collaboration, and listening to the challenges of those who need our help the most.

Nearly two years ago now, the Barton Health Foundation, along with many community partners, identified the need to address food insecurity caused by the pandemic. Since March 2020, when the Barton Health Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund was formed, over $420,000 has been raised to purchase food cards distributed to over 6,000 local families and individuals who were adversely impacted by the pandemic. Food cards give families a headstart in providing meals and restoring positive health in their household.

When the late-summer Caldor Fire blazed through our region, Cal Fire estimated 43,000 people, including all 21,500 residents of Lake Tahoe, were forced to evacuate. At this time, once again, food insecurity was identified as a significant issue. Many community members experienced economic hardships from temporary unemployment/job losses, as well as the expense of unexpectedly leaving their homes. Thanks to a concerted effort of community stakeholders and the generosity of Barton Health Foundation donors, in less than a month over $133,000 was raised and immediately distributed to assist community members and area food banks.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and through the Caldor Fire, the Barton Health Foundation has played a major role in our community’s health by helping address food insecurity, raising over $553,000 that has been allocated directly to families and local food banks who need support. With health equity as a guiding principle, the Barton Health Foundation continues to ignite action thanks to the continued generosity of our philanthropic partners.

On behalf of the Barton Health Foundation, we express deep thanks to our many donors and partners who continue to help us advance healthcare in our community through philanthropy.