Clear Path for Veterans to launch ‘Cooking for Better Health’ program thanks to Excellus BCBS, Wegmans

Clear Path for Veterans is one of seven non-profit organizations in Central New York that have been chosen to receive Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Community Health Awards from among nearly 60 applicants. “Cooking for Better Health” is a program at Clear Path that aims to help Veterans, active duty, Reserves, Guard and their families learn how to cook healthy meals made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

“Locavore is a movement of eating locally-grown and farmed foods, and there are many benefits to it,” said Clear Path’s Executive Chef Christopher Griffin. “This program is about multiple forms of better health: overall nutritional health of the participants, the environment by cutting energy use, financial health of local farmers, building healthy families, a healthy mind. I believe these meals will showcase the wide variety of local produce that is available, and get people excited about healthy cooking again.”

Clear Path will host eight “Cooking for Better Health” classes – two classes per month with up to 10 Veterans in each class starting in July. Registration will open in the near future. Griffin will demonstrate a cooking technique during each class – such as a quick and easy way to prepare and cook chicken – then the class participants will have the opportunity to prepare a dish with Griffin. Participants will be given the recipe to take home.

“There are myriad of pre-made products on the shelves, grocery items featuring synthetic foods, preservatives and often lots of sodium. The point of these classes is to get people to cook healthier options from scratch, and to get them to want to do that we need to provide simple, approachable recipes,” Griffin said.

To further encourage participants to prepare the dishes at home, Wegmans is partnering with Clear Path to provide class participants with a $25 grocery gift card to purchase ingredients.


“Many Veterans were in active service during their 20’s - the phase of life when most of us learn to cook. They ate what was provided for them, and much of the time these meals were designed for shelf-life and portability, and did not feature fresh ingredients,” said Myron Thurston III, Clear Path’s Chief Development Officer. “This program will help reduce reluctance to try new things, and offer new ways of preparing foods. The goal of this program is to motivate Veterans and their families to make lifestyle changes that promote better health and prevent the onset of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Wegmans and Excellus are great community partners. Our ‘Cooking for Better Health’ classes aim to build healthier families, and Wegmans and Excellus are providing a tangible way for up to 80 Veterans and their families to be positively impacted by these classes. We are very grateful to the generosity of Excellus and Wegmans.”

Excellus presented Clear Path and six other award recipients each with up to $4,000 to fund health and wellness programs within the company’s five-county Central New York region. The programs of the award recipients focus on improving the health status of the community, reducing the incidence of specific diseases, promoting health education and enhancing overall wellness.

The six other nonprofit organizations in the Central New York region selected to receive Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Community Health Awards are the Auburn YMCA-WEIU to establish a 12-week strength training and aerobic exercise program to help people who have diabetes; the Cortland Regional Medical Center for its smoking cessation program for pregnant women; Foodnet Meals on Wheels in Ithaca to add nutrient-dense items to its daily meals provided to older adults; Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County in Ithaca to enhance a program that provides patients with a system to track and manage all of their relevant health information; Prevention Network in Syracuse to purchase 265 drug deactivation kits for distribution among families across Onondaga County; and WCNY to offer “Food and Fun Fridays” summer programming in Syracuse’s Near Westside.

“The company’s Community Health Awards demonstrate a corporate commitment to supporting local organizations that share our mission as a nonprofit health plan,” said Jim Reed, regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “These awards complement our existing grants and sponsorships with agencies that work to enhance quality of life, including health status, in upstate New York.”