Helping to Ensure Phoenix Schoolchildren Aren’t Going Hungry

Standing on the assembly line at the UnitedHealthcare and Arizona Diamondbacks Pack the House project in Phoenix is a familiar spot for Jared Mink. Jared, a clinical administrative coordinator at UnitedHealthcare, has volunteered here four times, and it hasn’t gotten old.

“I love to help,” Jared said. ”As a volunteer, I use my time to help those in need. It gives me a sense of community, purpose, happiness and fulfillment. Working for this program has always made me smile.”

The Pack the House volunteer project is a joint effort between the Arizona Diamondbacks and UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well.” employee volunteer initiative to pack 49,000 meals a year for Phoenix-area children in need. That’s one meal for every seat in Chase Field. The event has taken place three times a year for the past seven years.

The assembly line idea originated from the local nonprofit, Kitchen on the Street.  The organization delivers Bags of Hope, which individual meals and food for the entire family.

Each bag contains about half a dozen small meals each and is delivered to area schools where they are distributed to children who are part of the school’s free and reduced-lunch programs. The children pick up these bags on Friday afternoons in the school office to ensure they have something healthy to eat through the weekend. 

Without these meals, many may go hungry. 

“Roughly 600,000 Arizona children received breakfast and lunch at school, but thousands have no source of food on weekends,” says Lisa Scarpinato, CEO of Kitchen on the Street. “Providing these children with weekend nutrition allows them to live healthier lives, attend school more regularly and be successful in the classroom. On average, reading skills improve by 12 percent and math scores increase by 26 percent as a result of this program. Partners like UnitedHealthcare and the Arizona Diamondbacks truly turn hunger into hope, one child at a time.”

Helping people live healthier lives is at the core of UnitedHealthcare’s mission.

“I say it all the time, ‘Your health is often determined more by your zip code than your genetic code,’” says Joe Gaudio, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona. “These kids have fewer resources and opportunities to stay healthy. If we can make a difference supporting Kitchen on the Street at these packing parties, count us in.”

Fifty UnitedHealth Group employee-volunteers packed a total 19,000 meals and reached their 2019 goal of 49,000 meals during this event.

“I hope our efforts are creating a healthy and positive environment for these kids,” Jared said. “The idea of children going hungry is unacceptable. If I can volunteer some of my time for a child in need, sign me up.”