Scroll down to find stories segmented by the four core focus areas of our global impact strategy:
Childhood Succes, Youth Success, Economic Mobility, and Access to Health
We ensure that children build a strong early foundation by providing parents with tools to support their child’s development and education, improving learning environments, and helping children and their families overcome nonacademic barriers to success in school and life.
Young Leaders Unite to Help Local Schoolchildren
A little help can go a long way. Just ask Michelle Augusty, a member of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) steering committee. YLS is a global network of young professionals who are dedicated to creating lasting and local impact. Members connect to their communities—and each other—through professional-development activities, educational opportunities, volunteerism and networking events.
Michelle and her committee provide strategic support for United Way’s programs and initiatives, like their “Stuff the Bus” event. The annual campaign unites community and corporate partners through collection drives, corporate challenges, field days, sort-a-thons and backpack deliveries for local schoolchildren in need. In a single year, 960 volunteers came together to give 9,635 students at nine public schools, 18 United Way family resource centers and 36 partner agencies backpacks full of school supplies, with 88 companies participating in the campaign. The supplies help students begin the year with confidence and dignity, while helping teachers to begin teaching on the first day.
Stuff the Bus is one of countless initiatives members of YLS are supporting across the globe. There are currently 147 YLS programs worldwide, with more than 50,000 members who are donating their time, skills and money to support those in need. Every day, YLS members are leveraging the power of United Way to connect, serve and grow, both personally and professionally. It’s one of the many ways United Way is helping people make a mark in their own back yard.
A Fun Way to Support Childhood Development
Did you know that 90 percent of our brains are “hard-wired” by age 5? Early learning is a critical part of childhood development—and it can happen anywhere, at any time. That’s why we developed United Way Born Learning, an initiative that gives parents and caregivers the tools, resources and opportunities they need to make the most of their children’s early years. Through Born Learning Academies® and Born Learning Trails®, United Way Worldwide offers fun and effective ways to strengthen family and community bonds.
Born Learning Trails are especially popular, turning everyday experiences in teachable moments. These multi-station, family-learning courses connect learning in the classroom to real-world activities around the community and out in nature. Introduced to nearly 1,000 communities, the trails support language, literacy and social skills development, and remind us that learning can be fun. Aligned with their education efforts, United Way of Milwaukee & Waukesha County has introduced 15 trails in their two communities, all of which have been a hit with the community.
“The trails have drawings on the ground where you can help your child recognize numbers, letters and shapes,” said Joyce Wilson, who experienced the trail with her son. “You can work with kids and play with them. It makes learning fun, and it is a bonding experience, too.”
While Born Learning Trails offer families an opportunity to learn and grow together, they also serve as a way for residents and neighbors to get involved in their communities. Over the years, local United Ways have afforded companies the chance to sponsor trails or build them through workplace campaigns. It’s a great way for companies to give back to the communities in which their employees live. Just ask Anne La Paz, an employee of Oberlin Filter Company, a sponsor of the trail in Milwaukee’s Heyer Park.
“Looking back, it was amazing to see how much effort and pride went into the planning and building of the trail,” said Anne. “It gave us all satisfaction to know that we helped make Heyer Park an even more unique playground environment for young children to grow, learn and interact with their caregivers.”
Committed to helping parents and caregivers create quality learning opportunities with their children, United Way of Milwaukee & Waukesha County is just one of many local United Ways who are bringing Born Learning Trails into their community. To date, nearly 1,000 co-branded trails have been installed at parks, museums, playgrounds and company campuses, with more than 10,000 volunteers helping to make them happen.
Kansas City, Missouri
Supporting a Child’s First 1,000 Day of Life
Cherokee can quickly list what she wants for her 2-year-old daughter, Arorah. She wants her to grow up in a stable home, feel financially secure and go to college. This is important to Cherokee because growing up, she didn’t experience those things.
Through Promise 1000, United Way of Greater Kansas City is connecting vulnerable families to services that help young children, from prenatal to age 3—the first 1,000 days of life. The program brings community agencies together for a home-visiting system that delivers services to families who most need them.
For Cherokee and her partner, Nick, the program is helping them do what is best for their daughter, despite some obstacles. Nick works in maintenance and Cherokee is a barista. They don’t make a lot of money, and only one of them can stay home to parent. When they found out about Promise 1000, they knew it would help them build a stronger foundation for Arorah.
“There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but there is such a thing as a better parent,” said Cherokee. “I want to be there for her. I don’t want to miss a thing.”
A collaborative initiative of United Way, Children’s Mercy Hospital, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (HCF) and area home-visiting programs, Promise 1000 is dedicated to improving maternal and newborn health; reducing the incidences of child maltreatment and intimate partner violence; and improving the economic self-reliance and safety of participating families. The program’s work is guided by scientific research confirming that a stimulating and nurturing environment is essential for optimal brain development, which in turn leads to school readiness and good health.
This year, the program received a two-year, $550,000 grant from HCF to help increase the number of families receiving home-visitation services. As parents, Nick and Cherokee have no role models to turn to for guidance, and they appreciate the fact that this comprehensive program is based on home visitation. “It happens on our time and in our house,” said Cherokee, who adds that available transportation can be a huge issue in getting resources if you’re struggling financially.
Nick says the home visitations can extend into areas of the family that might not seem directly related to parenting, such as job stress. However, solving issues helps him be a better parent, he explains. Thanks to Promise 1000, “we are stronger as a family, and we just do better.”
Building Healthier Habits for Brighter Futures
Healthy eating habits and physical fitness make a lifetime of difference. When young adults eat well and stay active, they are more likely to attend school regularly, earn better grades and pursue higher education. That was the message behind “Games for Good,” a field-day event hosted by United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania to teach local youth about proper nutrition and exercise.
Held at Highmark Stadium in October, more than 800 local schoolchildren shared in a once-in-a-lifetime experience as 500 corporate volunteers led games like a food group relay and sack races. Other activities include playing soccer with athletes, a craft session and gardening. The inaugural event supported United Way’s United for Children initiative, which promotes school attendance, literacy and Pre-K to Kindergarten transition, while reducing barriers to healthy habits.
For Shawn Robinson, co-chair of United Way’s NextGen volunteer group and an event volunteer, Games for Good is an important step toward generating awareness of United for Children’s presence in the community. “We do a lot of things with kids because we want them to realize there are a lot of people in this community who care about them and support them,” says Robinson. “I got a hand-written note from one of the students who hadn’t thought about college, but after a conversation with their mentor, they’re now striving for it. That was a humbling experience.”
Empowering Children through ReadingPals
Through its popular ReadingPals volunteer program, United Way of Miami-Dade and its community partners are working to ensure local children have access to books and are entering kindergarten ready to learn. It’s just one of the many ways United Way is committed to childhood success.
“Working with children in ReadingPals has been such a rewarding experience. I’ve learned as much from the children I’ve worked with as they have from me,” said John L. Callaway, III, who is entering his third year as a ReadingPals volunteer. “It has been genuinely heartwarming to witness the progress each child I’ve worked with has made.”
ReadingPals begins by matching each volunteer with two children. During a 28-week program for 30 minutes per week, the volunteer helps preschool children build vocabulary and other social skills by reading high-quality books and engaging them in interactive learning activities. To inspire success in school and in the lives of children, United Way of Miami-Dade continually engages local companies to invest resources, such as time or books, in the program.
Book donations are imperative, because increasing the number of books available to children at home increases the likelihood of that child engaging in reading voluntarily, which improves their overall literacy skills. ReadingPals offers early learning beyond the classroom by providing each child with a minimum of four take-home books, along with activities to promote kindergarten readiness. At the end of the program, each child receives a “Transition to Kindergarten” kit that includes books and a calendar of summer activities for families.
For the past five years, ReadingPals has provided more than 1,700 children with more than 7,000 hours of reading intervention and meaningful activities, along with more than 5,000 take-home books. Fifteen United Ways throughout Florida are participating in the initiative, funded through a private grant from philanthropist Carol Jenkins Barnett and Barney Barnett, vice chairman of Publix Super Markets. Joining United Way in this ReadingPals initiative are local partners: Books & Books, Early Learning Coalition, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade Public Library Systems, The Children’s Movement of Florida and The Children’s Trust.
Building Bright Futures for Local Schoolchildren
They say education is the foundation for building a bright future. If that’s the case, the United Way of Greater Atlanta is an architect of early childhood development, working with such partners as UPS to tackle community obstacles like illiteracy and lack of access to quality childcare programming.
Recently, United Way of Greater Atlanta, working with UPS employees, supported summer learning opportunities, delivered books and, through subsidies, granted children access to educational programs. These efforts have contributed to the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s childhood and youth success goals, with 30,023 elementary school students improving their reading skills; 49,207 middle and high school students demonstrating academic improvement; and 3,991 adults better able to support their children's development and learning.
When children thrive, communities can thrive. By helping individuals and families attend great schools and learn skills to prepare them for future success, United Way of Greater Atlanta is strengthening their community from the inside out. And by coming together with partners to give back so that others may get ahead, they’re laying the foundation for a brighter future.
We ensure that youth can obtain a job that will sustain a family by providing academic support outside school, preparing youth for transition into the workforce, and connecting families to the resources and services they need to support their kids.
An Education in Entrepreneurship
In the Boston, Massachusetts, area, high school students are sharpening their business skills with the help of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. Through Youth Venture, a civic engagement and entrepreneurship program, United Way is helping young people envision, create and see the impact of their own entrepreneurial skills. The program is designed to inspire young people to come up with business ideas to improve their community, and then help turn those ideas into reality. Companies in the area are stepping up to help. Thanks to a grant from the Citi Foundation, Citi Group’s charitable arm, and America’s Promise, United Way expanded the program to equip more students for jobs through communication, project management, leadership and teamwork.
Not only is United Way providing local youth with ongoing training, mentoring and financial support to realize their business ideas, but they’re helping the teams develop, launch, manage and sustain their community-benefiting projects. In 2016, 32 teams received seed funding to launch their own businesses. One such company was Quality Kicks 4 Kids, a Youth Venture team from the Boston Centers for Youth and Families Mildred Avenue Community Center that started a shoe and sneaker restoration business. Their profits were used to start a thrift store for kids, which also promotes community service hours. By investing in today’s youth, United Way is investing in their future—and ours.
Building a Foundation for Youth Success
Last year marked a record high in U.S. high school graduation rates, a testament to the great work of many—including local United Ways—to prepare young people for higher education and careers. Take United Way for Southeastern Michigan, for example. Through their High School Turnaround Initiative, they are targeting investments around a set of historically low-performing schools with the goal of increasing high school graduation rates to at least 80 percent. In just one year, the on-time graduation rate in their network of schools—consisting of 7,819 students enrolled in 15 turnaround high schools— exceeded the state average by achieving 86 percent.
Focused on helping high school students jumpstart their futures, United Way for Southeastern Michigan is also supporting them through GM Student Corps, a skills-building program with General Motors. The nine-week summer program helps youth in underserved school districts transform their communities, while giving them valuable life-skills training, college preparation assistance and career support through paid internships. Each year, GM Student Corps matches teams of 10 high school interns with retired GM executives to plan and execute community-service projects, like building bikes for children in need, painting school buildings, assembling picnic tables and landscaping.
Orange County, California
Supporting Award-Winning Academic Performance
Early last year, parents, educators, and policy and corporate leaders came together to cheer on students at the third annual Linked Learning Showcase, held at the Esteban Torres High School and supported by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
In all, 40 students from local school districts entered research projects to compete for the Audience Choice Award. Corporate and community leaders from across the county voted for their favorite submission, with the students from ESET at Carson High School winning for their project, “Bright Ideas: Engineering Environmental Innovation.”
United Way of Greater Los Angeles’s president and CEO, Elise Buik, spoke at the event, where she highlighted the significant role Linked Learning plays in a student’s future. She also emphasized the important connection between academics and work-based learning opportunities. Under her leadership, and with a commitment to youth success, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles has made a mark in the community and the lives of countless students.
Through their work, more than 48,000 students are given the tools and support they need to prepare for graduation and the workforce. What’s more, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles has helped provide after-school support to 24,000 students in math or English, resulting in 56% of students improving their math performance and 58% improving their English, Language, Arts (ELA) performance.
And of the 2,000 students involved, 84% have completed 9th grade and 71% have completed 10th grade. With more than 15,000 students in Los Angeles dropping out of high school every year, and more than 53% of student graduating without the courses they need to get into a four-year university, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles is committed to changing lives through education. Supporting the Linked Learning Showcase is one way they’re doing just that. Learn more.
Preparing Youth for College and Careers
The jump from high school to college can be a difficult one for young adults, especially for those facing barriers. In communities near and far, schools are underfunded, skills-based programming is too costly, and access to higher education is non-existent or lacking. United Way is fighting to shift the odds for youth by providing academic and employment support.
College readiness is a key part of one’s transition to higher learning. Research has shown that when youth “disconnect” from school, their limited education can impact their future earnings and health, increasing their likelihood of living in poverty. By supporting young adults through academic workshops, career-connected education, internships, apprenticeship programs, mentorship and skills training, United Way is investing in their futures—and ours.
Just ask Kayla, a senior at Middletown High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Preparing for college became a lot easier thanks to United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s commitment to youth success. In partnership with the Middletown High School Future Center, United Way piloted a speed-mentoring program in February to equip students with the knowledge and guidance they needed.
“I really liked speed-mentoring. It gave me way more confidence when it comes to interviewing public figures and things like that,” said Kayla, who was one of nearly 60 participants in the Middletown High School Speed Mentoring Program. “I liked talking to different people in my community; they gave me great feedback on what they do and what I could do with my future.”
We ensure that people are able to improve their socio-economic status by creating pathways to in-demand jobs with potential for advancement, and empowering them to better manage their money and get on more solid financial ground.
Giving the Homeless a Helping HandA healthy meal, warm bed and roof over your head is something many of us take for granted. For the 12,000 individuals in Washington, D.C., who are living without a home, that’s not the case. In their fight to give residents the building blocks for a good quality of life, United Way of the National Capital Area hosted Project Homeless Connect, an annual event that unites community volunteers and services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. From medical and dental care, to haircuts and healthy meals, United Way and hundreds of volunteers have helped more than 1,500 individuals experiencing homelessness in the region. Project Homeless Connect is one of the many ways United Way is fighting for financial stability for everyone.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Helping Veterans Get Back On Their Feet
Pride. That’s what Francisco Martinez (pictured at left) felt after enlisting in the military. Deployed overseas to fight for our freedom, Francisco faced the stark reality of combat in war-torn regions. From dodging danger in the field to witnessing the plight of hungry children, life in the military was challenging but rewarding for the soldier from Florida. It wasn’t until Francisco returned stateside that he was confronted by his biggest opponent yet—civilian life. Having given up everything for the military, Francisco came home to little opportunity and even less support. With no job and meager savings, Francisco struggled to make ends meet. And then he was introduced to MISSION UNITED™.
A chance encounter at a veterans’ hospital led to Francisco receiving the help he deserved. As he was receiving medical attention for an injured hand, Francisco was told about MISSION UNITED, a United Way program that helps military veterans and their families successfully acclimate to civilian life. By ensuring they receive the services they need—from therapy and housing, to financial management—MISSION UNITED helps veterans like Francisco get back on their feet. All it takes is one phone call, and they’re connected with a dedicated case coordinator who is ready to assist.
By giving back to those who have given so much, United Ways across the nation are fighting for the brave men and women who fought for them. When Francisco was hungry, broke and living in his truck, United Way of Broward County and its partners, through MISSION UNITED, helped him find a place to live and put food on his table. When he was struggling to find a job, they invited him to a career workshop, where he worked with a coach to update his resume and develop interviewing skills. As a result, Francisco landed a job as a delivery driver for UPS, where he has since been promoted three times. Now the military veteran has a steady income, a roof over his head and a bright future.
“Without United Way and MISSION UNITED, I would still be struggling,” said Francisco. “To know there are people out there who have my back, who can help me with certain things out of the goodness of their heart, it makes me happy. I wish all the veterans that come back know that, too."
Facing Homelessness After an Unexpected Loss
For many people, the barriers to financial stability seem impossible to overcome. Just ask Johnny, a Milwaukee resident who experienced an unimaginable loss that led to a brief period of homelessness. After the death of his wife of 30 years, Johnny found himself with no place to live.
He had heard about the Guest House of Milwaukee, a United Way-funded emergency shelter program, and decided to check it out. After three months of support and shelter, Johnny found a new home and a new future. It was an unexpected adjustment, but a worthwhile one.
“I told them I just needed a place to stay for a couple of weeks to get back on my feet,” said Johnny, who was introduced to a case manager and set up in the 90-day GATES program. “I had lived in the same place with one woman for 30 years, and suddenly I was living with 60 men I didn’t know.”
Thanks to United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Johnny found permanent housing and regained his financial footing. United Way has been helping people like Johnny achieve financial stability for years, affording them access to local agencies to help them achieve financial stability.
“United Way is not a short-term investment; it’s about lasting change,” said Shannon Reed, United Way’s financial stability portfolio manager. “The complexity of Johnny’s situation could have caused him to give up, but thanks to United Way’s support, he had a reason not to. We didn’t just provide him with a warm bed or a free meal, we helped him address the root causes of his issue, and therefore, overcome homelessness.”
Des Moines, Iowa
Helping People Build a Financial Future
Wells Fargo has long been committed to United Way’s mission of improving lives and building stronger communities. The company’s philanthropic focus is on helping individuals and families develop the tools necessary to strengthen their financial footing. With this in mind, Wells Fargo and United Way created the Financial Capability Network, a coalition of financial institutions that are committed to improving the financial capability of Americans of all ages and income levels.
An example of Wells Fargo’s support can be found in the communities that United Way of Central Iowa supports. Through a five-year partnership with the company, which just recently concluded, United Way equipped low- and moderate-income residents with the tools to establish financial stability. In one year alone, 1,794 Iowans received budget training, financial coaching and other services. Thanks to partners like Wells Fargo, and future supporters of the Network, United Way of Central Iowa will continue to increase the amount of people who are financially self-sufficient in the region.
Around the country, Wells Fargo employees are deeply engaged in United Way’s work. In one year alone, they volunteered 1.74 million hours in service of those in need. In addition, employees set a company record by pledging $98.87 million to 30,000 nonprofits and schools. The company also supports emergency relief efforts by donating cash, volunteer work hours and more. Together, United Way and Wells Fargo are setting communities up for success.
Even Heroes Need a Little Help
Not all heroes wear capes—some wear uniforms. The men and women in our armed forces have made great sacrifices in service to our country, but upon returning home, many find themselves on uneven ground. Enter Priority Veteran.
An initiative of United Way of Central Alabama, Priority Veteran works to help veterans gain access to local, state and federal resources. The program began with a $2 million grant from Supportive Services for Veteran Families. Since then, it has provided services to more than 1,750 homeless or near-homeless veterans in Alabama.
Priority Veteran works to ensure that these heroes can find safe and permanent housing, and teaches them the skills they need to remain financially stable. One such hero is Bobby Dawson, a wheelchair-bound Gulf War veteran who has weaved in and out of stable housing since his discharge. Priority Veteran assisted him with paying his utility bills, applying for social security benefits and making his mobile home wheelchair accessible.
“With United Way and Priority Veteran, it’s a blessing that there’s somebody out there who really cares for people who can’t do for themselves in their time of need,” Dawson said. “Without this program, I wouldn’t have survived.”
Providing a Blueprint for a Brighter Financial Future
Amanda had tried a few different careers, but what she really wanted was to be in construction. She loved being out in the field, wielding tools and building things, but didn’t have the skills to get hired. And then she discovered United Way of Greater Houston.
To help her fulfill her vision, Amanda was connected with a career coach through United Way THRIVE, United Way of Greater Houston’s family financial stability initiative. Amanda worked with her coach to develop a plan, received help with her resume and interview techniques, and enrolled in United Way THRIVE’s vocational-training program, where she began learning the skills needed to land her dream job.
After completing the vocational training, Amanda was hired into an apprenticeship program—but she didn’t stop there. Amanda continued to take advantage of United Way THRIVE’s financial stability services and started working with a financial coach. She began keeping a budget, paying off debt, growing her savings and working to build up her credit score.
“I walked away with a whole new path for my life. I walked away with dreams that I never had before,” said Amanda. “They’re giving me the opportunity to do it, so I’m doing it. I’m on the path to success.”
Amanda has since moved on to another job as an electrical apprentice, earning even more than she had been before. She plans to continue developing her skills and gaining experience so that she can become a journeyman in her field.
Once she reaches that goal, Amanda has big plans for her family: Not only are they going to get a home of their own, but they are going to help build it! Amanda wants to take the skills she has learned through United Way and apply them to help build a house for her family.
“I knew that this one apprenticeship program, this one job, this opportunity to get those skills, they were what I needed to get myself in that place financially where I could start planning and dreaming of a home,” said Amanda. “Now I can dream about exactly where I’m going.”
Access to Health
We ensure that people can live healthier lives by connecting them to quality affordable health insurance and health services, providing support for parents trying to raise healthy children, and increasing access to healthy foods and fun physical activity.
Healthy Communities are Strong Communities
In communities across the nation, active living has become an afterthought. Many cities and towns are not being designed to foster the health and wellness of their residents, leading to unhealthy habits, a lack of physical fitness, chronic diseases and a rise in health costs. United Way is fighting to reverse this trend by building environments where the healthy choice is the easiest choice to make.
United Way is also making communities healthier by building leaders. In Ohio, United Way of Central Ohio and Fifth Third Bank partnered to deliver the Neighborhood Leadership Academy, which offers training to community leaders in the areas of advocacy, consensus building, effective collaboration and communication. The program is designed to equip residents with the knowledge they need to become agents of change in their own backyard. Thanks to the academy, residents are making a positive impact in their neighborhoods by building upon existing community assets and introducing improvements that contribute to the overall health and wellness of their neighbors.
Good health is both a community responsibility and benefit. It goes beyond personal diet, exercise and the other individual choices we make. The foundation for a healthy life is in the neighborhoods we build and environments we inhabit. When people have access to parks, bike paths and playgrounds, they are more likely to succeed in school, work and life. And when that happens, everyone wins.
Urban Farm Stands Provide Healthy Options to Those in NeedIn the U.S., we throw away an astonishing amount of food—roughly 30-40 percent of our food supply is wasted according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, more than 23 million of us, including 6.5 million children, live in “food deserts”—areas more than a mile away from a supermarket where people have difficulty finding affordable, high-quality, fresh food.
In Baltimore City, Maryland, residents like Franny can walk to a half-dozen fast-food restaurants for meals. There are plenty of corner stores selling everything from potato chips to soft drinks, too. But when it came to finding fresh fruits and vegetables, Franny is out of luck.
Franny, like an estimated one out of four Baltimore residents, lives in a food desert. In central Maryland, an estimated 345,000 people don’t have access to healthy food. And the challenge only grows from there: When families don’t have nutritious food, kids often have a hard time focusing in school and don’t have the energy they need to learn and grow.
In response, United Way of Central Maryland’s Access to Healthy Food Initiative partnered with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore to ensure Franny and her neighbors can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from urban farm stands right in their neighborhood.
The Access to Healthy Food Initiative aims to source more local, healthy food; improve distribution; and increase access and affordability. In Franny’s case, she now receives “double dollars” on healthy purchases through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helping her and her family eat better for less.
Now, when Franny wants to pick up dinner for her family, she bypasses the fast-food restaurants and corner stores, and purchases affordable, healthy ingredients from the local farm stands instead.
New York City, New York
Addressing Hunger and Health through Food Access
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.
Every day, and across the country, United Way is 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.
Fostering a Healthy Culture of Inclusion and Tolerance
In all corners of the world, United Ways are fighting against hate, prejudice and discrimination. United Way of Metropolitan Chicago is doing their part to promote acceptance. A few years ago, they launched United Pride, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) affinity group that supports their LGBTQ community across education, income, health and basic needs.
Since its launch, United Pride has been fostering a culture of generosity by engaging companies and individuals across the region. By working with partners like AIDs Foundation of Chicago, Comcast, Northern Trust and Rush, United Way is driving inclusivity near and far. One year, they hosted a Spirit Day, with an emphasis on anti-bullying; held a Day of Silence, a student-led anti-harassment initiative; and supported local events like the Chicago Pride Parade, among other efforts.
Farming for a Community Cause
In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, one in five families struggle with hunger, leaving access to fresh produce often out of reach. To live United against this hunger, Greater Twin Cities United Way joined Loaves and Fishes to launch Farm for All, a unique project aimed at supplying local meal programs with organic produce grown at four community garden and farm sites.
Over the course of one summer, and through the help of volunteers and in-kind donations, four sites were transformed from simple plots of land to flourishing gardens and farm beds bursting with fresh produce.
Kimberly Greene-DeLanghe, Loaves and Fishes site coordinator, was instrumental in helping plan, implement and maintain the garden sites. Kimberly came to Loaves and Fishes after working on organic farms in Oregon and New York, and she was eager to use her skills to help those in need. “When I got into farming, I wanted to grow really good food for people who couldn’t access or afford it otherwise,” she explained.
When garden volunteer, Rochelle Miller, heard about the project, she felt compelled to get involved. “It’s important to reach out to others in their time of need. I garden at home and love the farm concept,” she said. “Supplying people with good, nutritious meals makes me feel good to give.”
Individuals, corporate groups and families all participated in this fun and meaningful project.
“We came three or four times during the summer,” said Elary Hall, a mother of four who volunteered with her family. “Volunteering is a great way to teach your kids about work and service. This is a really neat thing because the whole family can volunteer together.”
Once harvested, the produce from Farm for All makes its way to meal sites throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area to be prepared and served by volunteers for those in need.
John is a meal guest who found himself in need of help when he became unemployed. The money he saves by visiting the meal program goes to help cover his mortgage so he can keep his housing. He enjoys the prepared meal, and he appreciates the inclusion of healthy items. In addition to the meal, John said the staff and volunteers have made the experience a good one.
“They are always friendly and welcoming.”
Promoting Nutritional Awareness through Education
Healthy communities start with healthy meals, and who better to teach about health and nutrition than healthcare providers themselves?
Recently, United Way California Capital Region embarked on a partnership with Samuel Merritt University and their RN-to-BSN nursing program, with a goal of education through service.
Several nurses from the program were welcomed to United Way, where they worked with the Healthy Meals Program to conduct nutrition education and cooking classes with other United Way partners. The nurses are teaching youth about balanced nutrition and helping them develop basic cooking skills so that they may live healthier lives.
One of these nurses, Valerie Krug, discussed her favorite part about her involvement in the partnership, saying, “United Way has given me the chance to work with children and teach them the importance of good nutrition and health. They are very receptive to the program and are eager for each lesson.”
Valerie also expressed her gratitude for the program, saying, “I have always wanted to further my education and career, but my dream didn’t turn into reality until I found out Samuel Merritt University offered this amazing opportunity.”
With support from nurses like Valerie, United Way California Capital Region and their partners are making a lasting mark in their communities and on the lives of their residents.