Did you know that people who are hungry and food insecure are also at risk of suffering from chronic diseases? According to the Alliance Against Hunger, hungry people are 2.9 times more likely to be in poor health and 2.5 times more likely to be obese due to poor nutrition. When addressing hunger, it is important to make sure people have access to healthy and nutrient-dense food. United Ways across the country are paving a path toward progress by incorporating healthy options into their local hunger-relief efforts, and it’s making a lifetime of difference.
Last year, United Way of New York City, through their Hunger Prevention Nutrition and Assistance Program, provided nearly two million meals to food-insecure New Yorkers. United Way ensures that hungry residents receive healthy and nutritious food by providing food grants to more than 350 food pantries and soup kitchens. Grantees are required to spend at least 15 percent of their grant funds on purchasing fresh produce. To further increase their partners’ capacity to increase healthy food access, United Way works with local farmers during the growing season to connect them to food pantries in low-income communities. This partnership, called the Local Produce Link, has led to nearly two million pounds of fresh, local produce being distributed to food pantries across the city.
Meanwhile, in southeastern Connecticut, where 19,000 people live below the poverty level, United Way of Southeastern Connecticut fights hunger by running the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center, the local foodbank for New London County. With the help of volunteers, the Food Center distributes food to partners who go on to provide meals to more than 20,000 people each month. United Way’s efforts to address hunger and health do not stop there—they also operate a mobile food pantry, a refrigerated truck full of fresh produce, dairy, grains and other perishable options. Each month, the mobile pantry visits areas in the region where access to grocery stores and supermarkets is limited; they distributed more than 285,000 meals last year alone.
Every day, and across the country, United Ways are fighting for the health of every person in every community. And that includes giving them the whole foods they need to live healthy and happy lives. Addressing hunger and health is a multifaced issue that requires many community solutions. United Ways are uniquely positioned to address both.