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In Minnesota, one in 11 households is affected by hunger. That’s 540,000 people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. And, even when they have food, it’s not always sufficient or nutritious.
Without the proper nutrition or food intake, a person is three times more likely to suffer health problems. When faced with deteriorating health, care is often needed. Frequently, these individuals can’t afford or don’t have access to proper care. In Minnesota, about $1.6 billion is spent on health care, medication, education and lost productivity from hunger-related issues.
This inspired UnitedHealthcare and its Minnesota employees to help their home state fight hunger and its related effects. UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well.” volunteer initiative first teamed up with Second Harvest Heartland in 2011 and has invested more than $900,000 to date. UnitedHealthcare employees have volunteered 22,221 hours and helped Second Harvest Heartland distribute 2.8 million meals to individuals in need.
“UnitedHealthcare’s actions to reduce hunger are providing immediate support for people in our community, including children and seniors,” says Rob Zeaske, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland.
Recognizing the correlation between food security and health, UnitedHealthcare focuses on providing Second Harvest Heartland with nutritionally rich foods, such as fresh produce. In 2017, UnitedHealthcare helped the organization and its agency partners distribute nearly 500,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables through 60 mobile produce distributions in Minnesota.
To further its impact with Second Harvest Heartland, UnitedHealthcare teamed up with the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund to grant $50,000 to Second Harvest Heartland for the purchase of a refrigerated truck. This truck is expected to help deliver 3 million pounds of fresh food each year, representing about 2.5 million meals for people in Minnesota.
In addition to UnitedHealthcare’s focus on expanding access to fresh food, there are other foods that people need in their diets. According to Second Harvest Heartland, peanut butter is one of the most requested items and offers a good source of protein. Employees recognized this and found another way to give back. This year, during an annual peanut butter donation drive, UnitedHealthcare employees collected and donated more than 1,000 jars of peanut butter, which equates to nearly 3,000 pounds. Over the years, these annual donation drives have provided Second Harvest Heartland with 6 tons of peanut butter.
“By addressing hunger in Minnesota, we’re able to help people live healthier lives and build strong communities for the long term,” says Jeff Putnam, Chief Financial Officer of UnitedHealthcare and board member of Second Harvest Heartland.
UnitedHealthcare’s relationship with Second Harvest Heartland is part of the company’s “Do Good. Live Well.” program, an employee-volunteer initiative dedicated to decreasing hunger and obesity, inspiring service and encouraging volunteerism. For more information about the benefits of volunteering and to find opportunities to volunteer alongside UnitedHealthcare in your community, visit DoGoodLiveWell.org. Follow @DoGoodLiveWell on Twitter or "like" Do Good. Live Well. on Facebook.