Press Release

WellCare Supports New Jersey Communities in Need During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Partnerships help vulnerable populations with access to food and other essential supplies

Company Release - 5/11/2020 7:24 AM ET

NEWARK, N.J., May 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people across New Jersey are facing challenges that extend beyond medical care. These challenges include basic daily needs such as access to food and other essential supplies. In response, WellCare of New Jersey, a subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading multi-national healthcare company, is helping to increase access by supporting community-based organizations and programs across the state.

NJ Buddies delivers healthy meals to a client in need.

Social determinants of health are non-medical barriers to achieving quality health outcomes. They include socioeconomic and environmental factors such as food accessibility, employment, education and more. Research shows medical care accounts for approximately 10 to 20%  of health outcomes, while the other 80 to 90% is affected by social determinants of health.

"The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far-reaching and have extended beyond medical care to affect access to food and essentials, employment, connectivity, and other critical resources across our state," said John Kirchner WellCare's Plan President and CEO in New Jersey. "These social determinants of health have a significant impact on overall wellbeing, especially among vulnerable populations, and WellCare of New Jersey wants to ensure we're supporting the needs of our communities during this challenging time."

Hunger and Food Insecurity
The demand on food banks has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Feeding America, a national hunger relief nonprofit, estimates these organizations will need an additional $1.4 billion in funding during the next six months to provide food assistance to people facing hunger. In partnership with Feeding America, Centene and WellCare will coordinate a donation of 1 million meals a month for the next 12 months to feed those in New Jersey and across the country.

In addition, WellCare of New Jersey donated $70,000 directly to local food pantries across Bergen, Hudson, Union, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic and Camden counties – areas of high need in New Jersey. The donation will help increase access to food support initiatives and newly developed delivery services that serve vulnerable populations in high-need areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Food is necessary for growth, development, and healing, but it is often forgotten until times of crises.  The pandemic has presented uncertainty for many – especially for those who face financial instability. We appreciate WellCare's generous donation, which will lift this burden for many households across New Jersey," said Dr. Anniesha Walker, Executive Director of Mercer Street Friends.

"Support from partners like WellCare is critical during times like these," said Patricia Espy, Executive Director of Center for Food Action. "This gift will allow us to purchase nutritious food and distribute it to more people, including those who are ill or homebound, at a time when it is needed most."

"We at Jewish Family Service of Central NJ are incredibly grateful to WellCare for this most generous grant, which will enable us to serve an additional 400 individuals with emergency food during this crisis," said Tom Beck, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Central NJ.

"WellCare's donation will help sustain our food outreach to individuals and families who are struggling with poverty and food insecurity in Camden and surrounding communities. Due to the pandemic, Cathedral Kitchen has had to suspend meals and social services in our dining room and instead serve to-go meals from our front doors. Thanks to WellCare's support, we can continue to serve an average of 1,700 meals per week to adults, seniors, and children in New Jersey," said Carrie Kitchen-Santiago, Executive Director, Cathedral Kitchen of Camden County.

"On behalf of Team AngelaCARES, we are very thankful to our amazing partner WellCare," said Angela McKnight, Founder and CEO of AngelaCARES. "Their generous support will help us continue serving the community, especially our most vulnerable population – senior citizens – during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"I am truly grateful for this donation by WellCare. Currently, at SMILE we are pushing the limit to serve our communities who have been severely affected by the pandemic. We have families who have lost their jobs, can't access their local supermarkets, or are immunosuppressed and can't afford to go outside. SMILE has over 500 deliveries of bagged groceries that go out each month to families across New Jersey. This is a huge increase from the 100 families we were serving before the pandemic. Now, with WellCare's assistance, we will be able to continue supporting these families and many more who come our way. I would like to thank everyone at WellCare who made this possible," said Syed Ahmed, SMILE Food Pantry Manager.

"Buddies of NJ has been working tirelessly to ensure our clients have all of the food and supplies they need for themselves and their families. This donation from WellCare will help guarantee our continued support to our clients and alleviate the stress they are feeling at this time. The WellCare donation will enable us to serve an additional 500 nutritional packages to those in need and continue our work as a valuable resource in the community," said Richard Miles, Executive Director, NJ Buddies.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) & Essentials Supplies
As New Jersey's frontline workers continue to face severe shortages of PPE, WellCare has donated more than $100,000 to help the Home Care & Hospice Association of New Jersey distribute PPE to nearly 50 home healthcare firms, hospice and home health agencies across the state.

WellCare also purchased nearly $18,000 worth of Walmart gift cards for use on essential supplies. Each gift card holds a value of $35 and can be used to purchase essential items like diapers, over-the-counter medicines, and cleaning supplies.  

WellCare is partnering with the following local community-based organizations and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to distribute the gift cards to essential workers and other vulnerable populations, including the homeless and those with substance use disorders:

  • City of Newark & Department of Health and Community Wellness
  • Project H.O.P.E. (Camden)
  • Hogar Crea (Perth Amboy, Newark and Jersey City)
  • Zufall Health Center (multiple counties)

WellCare is committed to supporting its members and local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, visit www.wellcare.com/NewJersey.

About WellCare of New Jersey
WellCare of New Jersey provides government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex needs primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans across the state. WellCare is a wholly subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading multi-national healthcare enterprise committed to helping people live healthier lives. For more information, please visit www.wellcare.com/newjersey.

Staff members from Cathedral Kitchen help sort food and supplies for the organization’s to-go meal program.

Community members practice social distancing as they wait to pick food packages at Jewish Family Services in Union County.

A volunteer helps distribute food packages at SMILE for Charity Food Pantry in Passaic County.

(PRNewsfoto/WellCare Health Plans, Inc.)

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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.