Press Releases

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Highmark announces $2.65 million community investment to support 17 organizations' health-focused initiatives

Bumps Blue Fund’s Total Investment to $19.6 Million

Buffalo, New York  — Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York today announced $2.65 million in Blue Fund grants to support 17 major health-based projects, led by local nonprofits across all eight counties of Western New York.

The annual grant program is designed to improve health outcomes and equity in the areas of behavioral health, cardiovascular health, health care workforce development, maternal health, and healthy children. Blue Fund’s total investment in Western New York reached $19.6 million this year.

“Highmark’s 2023 Blue Fund investments are a continuation of our longstanding efforts to increase health equity in the communities we serve,” said Michael Ball, vice president, community affairs, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. “The amazing organizations receiving Blue Fund grants this year have the ability to enact real change in minimizing the barriers to health that exist in all eight counties of Western New York, and we’re proud to uplift their missions and further their collective impact.”

Today’s announcement was made at Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP), a 2023 Blue Fund grant recipient, whose $200,00 award will support a new program, the Buffalo Food Justice Project. The Buffalo Food Justice Project aims to increase access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally relevant food, as well as opportunities to learn to grow, cook and preserve healthy food.  

"Highmark's Blue Fund is providing critical, multi-year support that will allow the Massachusetts Avenue Project to promote health equity by increasing access to healthy, affordable, locally sourced food, food-based education and income generating opportunities for youth and adults. This significant funding in support of MAP's work and other community-based projects will help positively move the needle towards building a more just and equitable Buffalo,” said Diane Picard, Executive Director, Massachusetts Avenue Project.

As part of the Highmark Bright Blue Futures community giving and employee volunteerism program, the health plan’s employees spent the morning volunteering at various organizations in Buffalo, including MAP and Boy & Girls Clubs of Buffalo.

Highmark BCBSWNY launched Blue Fund in July 2018 to support organizations and initiatives that work collaboratively to address key health areas and demonstrate enhanced measurable outcomes for the community.

Below are the recipients of the 2023 Blue Fund Grants: 

  1. Ardent Solutions, Inc., $100,000 to support the Allegany County First Step Family Resource Center, a family-focused and culturally sensitive hub of support and resources that provides programs and targeted services based on need. 
  2. Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, Inc., $100,000 to support Buffalo HEAT, a program led by Buffalo Peacemakers that uses mentoring, nutrition, exercise, and restorative practices to empower youth to learn to resolve conflicts nonviolently, form habits that lead to health, develop life skills and self-confidence, and build a positive life purpose.
  3. Buffalo Urban League, $250,000 to enhance minority women’s sense of empowerment through increased knowledge and advocacy for self and baby, as well as access to all aspects of maternal health to increase positive outcomes throughout their pre-, peri-, and post-natal journeys.
  4. Cattaraugus County Health Department, $250,000 to support Veggie Wheels: Rolling into Rural Communities, a mobile unit that will provide people residing in the most rural areas in Cattaraugus County, with access to fresh and healthy food options, nutrition education, and experiential learning opportunities.
  5. Foodlink, Inc., $100,000 to increase access to nutritious food and other health resources for low-income students and families residing in communities with limited access to healthy and affordable food.
  6. Iota Eta Eta Inc., $100,000 to improve maternal and child health outcomes in Erie County through a nurse-led, community-based breastfeeding educational intervention program for young, low-income people in Erie County.   
  7. Resurrection Life Food Pantry (RLFP), $200,000 to support the addition of a warehouse, drive-thru and other sitework as part of an expansion to increase RLFP’s capacity to provide healthy food to low-income children and families in Western New York.
  8. Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara (LNYBN), $100,000, to increase the health literacy of low-income Erie and Niagara County residents through free tutoring services at select hospitals and facilities. This initiative supports the creation of easy-to-understand health materials and digital skill-training.
  9. Massachusetts Avenue Project, $200,000 to support the Buffalo Food Justice Project, which aims to improve food and health equity for children and families by increasing access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally relevant food and opportunities to learn to grow, cook and preserve healthy food.
  10. Niagara River Greenway, $100,000 to expand local community group capacity to promote wellness by providing healthy outdoor recreation activities, sponsoring active recreation events, and increasing awareness of new and improved greenspaces and recreational infrastructure; especially the WNY greenway trail network.
  11. Olean General Hospital, $200,000 to construct a private space within the emergency department dedicated to mental health patients and update the in-patient Mental Health Unit with safe furniture to suit the needs of these patients.
  12. Reach Out and Read, Inc., $100,000 to support Rx for Early Literacy in Western New York, a program that aims to transform the patient-clinician experience through literacy and gives parents tools to engage meaningfully with their children to support improved long-term health.
  13. Resource Council of WNY, $100,000 to support youth programming aimed at improving service delivery with additional staffing, equipment and supplies to administer afterschool, weekend, and summer enrichment programs in a high-need community.
  14. Rural Outreach Center, $150,000 to support a comprehensive, holistic, wrap-around approach to breaking the cycle of rural poverty by recognizing that the antecedents and consequences of poverty greatly overlap with the social determinants of health. 
  15. The Foundations of Catholic Health, $250,000 to support the Food Farmacy, a program that will connect food-insecure patients at risk for chronic heart disease with clinically focused Registered Dieticians, access to healthy food, and educational supports to improve overall health and reduce risk of disease.
  16. Trocaire College, $150,000 to launch a new health care workforce training program, focused on developing career pathways to Licensed Practical Nursing certification and employment.
  17. Western New York Independent Living, $200,000 will support extended daily service hours at the Renewal Center at the new Kirsten Vincent Respite & Recovery Center, adding an additional four hours of support each day. 

To learn more about Blue Fund, visit  

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York is a trade name of Highmark Western and Northeastern New York Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Since 1936, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York has helped millions of people lead healthier lives. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a full range of insured, self-insured, and government programs and services covering businesses, families, and individuals, as well as dental and vision plans and stop-loss coverage. As a community-based, not-for-profit health plan, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield contributes significantly to organizations that strengthen and enrich the health of the community. 

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About Blue Fund
Blue Fund, funded solely by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, awards major grants in Western New York annually, to organizations and initiatives that have a positive impact on key health areas and will demonstrate enhanced measurable outcomes for community health metrics. These include behavioral health, cardiovascular health, diabetes, health care workforce development, healthy children and maternal health.  Blue Fund complements Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield's current corporate giving program of partnerships and sponsorships. 

For more information, contact

Amber M. Hartmann