UnitedHealthcare is expanding its successful partnership with 4-H to help combat hunger and food insecurity by promoting budgeting and nutrition education in underserved communities, nearly doubling its annual commitment to $1 million to support the 4-H Food Smart Families program.
The 4-H Food Smart Families program was highlighted this week at the annual National 4-H Conference in Washington, DC and during a meeting with President Obama at the White House where 4-H youth leaders discussed youth-led efforts to tackle food insecurity, among other topics.
4-H Food Smart Families will help families make healthy living a greater part of their everyday lives beginning with budgeting and the grocery shopping experience, to meal planning and preparation. The program will engage 4-H teen leaders to serve as youth ambassadors and mentors to teach their peers, families and the local community about how to prepare healthy meals on a budget. Youth ambassadors will teach healthy living programs and lead community-wide events such as cooking workshops and community dinners based on what they've learned.
Working together with National 4-H Council and its grantee 4-H programs in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, the program will provide 4-Hers skills and resources to promote healthy choices to families in the communities that need it most. The grant will also support Farm to Fork initiatives in Iowa and Georgia.
“4-H is so pleased to have UnitedHealthcare support the 4-H Food Smart Families program and expand its strong commitment to help tackle hunger and food security, in underserved communities, by promoting the idea that you can eat healthy on a budget,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, president & CEO, National 4-H Council. “Having 4-H youth lead these efforts through educational experiences and community events will impact those at the greatest risk of facing food insecurity issues.”’
This year, the 4-H Food Smart Families is expected to reach over 50,000 individuals, including 13,000 kids and 36,000 of their family members that are eligible for or receiving SNAP (food stamps) benefits in communities. Goals include educating youth to eat more vegetables and fruit, drink more water, choose healthier snacks, eat breakfast, teach their families how to buy and prepare healthier affordable foods on a budget, and practice food safety principles for food preparation and preservation.
Andres Parra, 4-H Youth Ambassador with the University of Arizona Extension Program was in the meeting with the President and shared his involvement in the 4-H and UnitedHealthcare initiatives, “It’s an honor to be invited to meet President Obama and discuss the positive impact 4-H programs are having in our communities. Thousands of 4-H youth have participated in healthy living programs supported by UnitedHealthcare that are making a difference in reaching youth about these important issues.”
Since 2011, UnitedHealthcare has provided nearly $3 million to support 4-H programs in 13 states including its Eat4-Health program, which has reached 200,000 young people and families through a positive campaign that trained thousands of 4-H teen youth health ambassadors to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.
“UnitedHealthcare is proud to have been a strong supporter of 4-H for the past five years and see first-hand the positive impact its programs are having in communities across this country,” said Austin Pittman, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community & State, who serves as a trustee on the National 4-H Council Board of Directors. “Working together we are helping create unique, engaging programs that give our young people important tools to help families in their communities make healthy decisions and live healthier lives.”
The 4-H Food Smart Families program will help to create more food secure homes by empowering families to make healthy lifestyle decisions beginning at the point of their grocery shopping experience and continuing to meal preparation in their kitchens. To learn more visit www.4-h.org/4hfoodsmartfamilies.
Recent studies from USDA show that 17.5 million households across the country are food insecure, resulting in 49.1 million Americans suffering from hunger. Of those 49.1 million hungry Americans, more than 15.8 million are children. Studies show that school-age children who experience severe hunger are at increased risk for homelessness, obesity, chronic health conditions, stressful life conditions, psychiatric distress, behavioral problems, depression, anxiety, withdrawal and poor self-esteem.
According to America’s Health Rankings®, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, obesity, a leading risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and many cancers, continues to be one of the fastest-growing health challenges confronting the nation. In 2014, 15.7% of high school students and nearly 30% of adults were considered obese. In addition, 19.9% of U.S. Children live in households at or below the poverty threshold. Six of the eight states participating in the Food Smart Families program are ranked in the bottom 25 in the report, which can be viewed and downloaded at www.americashealthrankings.org.
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 109 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 850,000 physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. Globally, UnitedHealthcare serves 45 million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.