Tennessee 4-H and UnitedHealthcare Expand Partnership to Help Fight Hunger by Promoting Budgeting and Nutrition Education with “4-H Food Smart Families” Program

December 08, 2015
  • $55,000 grant to University of Tennessee’s 4-H Youth Development Program trains Tennessee 4-H’ers how to make healthy living a greater part of their everyday lives beginning with budgeting, grocery shopping and meal planning

UnitedHealthcare and the 4-H Youth Development Program at the University of Tennessee are expanding their partnership to help fight hunger and food insecurity by promoting budgeting and nutrition education in underserved communities with the “4-H Food Smart Families” program.

UnitedHealthcare is donating $55,000 to the University of Tennessee 4-H Extension, which administers 4-H programs throughout the state, to support the “4-H Food Smart Families” program. The program empowers families with nutrition education, and cooking and food-budgeting skills to bring more affordable, nutritious foods into their households, and connects families with nutrition assistance through SNAP benefits.

The expanded partnership was announced at the University of Tennessee’s Agricenter Farmer’s Market where 4-H’ers, community leaders and UnitedHealthcare mascot Dr. Health E. Hound participated in training sessions to learn more about food – how to secure it, use it and cook it, and make choices that enhance their health and well-being.  During the training, 4-H youth leaders were challenged in the 4-H Food Smart Shopping Experience, where they were asked to shop and make choices based on budget, nutrition, price per unit and meal preparation.

“We are excited to see the 4-H and UnitedHealthcare partnership grow, and work to strengthen and empower our future leaders,” said Tennessee 4-H Youth Development Director Steve Sutton.  “Through the 4-H Food Smart Program we are leveraging the proven influence of young people and helping them establish sustainable habits for their families and their communities.”

Throughout Tennessee, the 4-H Food Smart Program will engage 4-H teen leaders to serve as youth ambassadors and mentors to teach their peers, families and communities about how to prepare healthy meals on a budget.

4-H Food Smart Families is expected to engage nearly 6,000 Tennesseans, including nearly 1,700 kids and 4,300 of their family members that are eligible for or receiving SNAP (food stamps) benefits. Goals include educating youth on the importance of eating more vegetables and fruit; drinking more water; choosing healthier snacks; eating breakfast; teaching their families how to buy and prepare healthier, affordable foods on a budget; and practicing food-safety principles for food preparation and preservation.

“Hunger is a serious and complex problem that affects young people’s mental and physical health and self-esteem. UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to support the 4-H Food Smart Families program and its goals to provide a sustainable solution to childhood hunger,” said Rita Johnson-Mills, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee. 

UnitedHealthcare employees will help organize and host many of the 4-H Food Smart Family events and help implement projects that lead to positive, sustainable change at the community and individual level.  UnitedHealthcare’s $55,000 grant is part of a $1 million program funded by UnitedHealthcare this year in partnership with the National 4-H Council to support youth healthy-living programs. In addition to Tennessee, other state 4-H programs receiving grants include Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin. This partnership will provide 4-H’ers skills and resources to promote healthy choices to families in the communities that need it most.

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 campaign that trained thousands of 4-H youth health ambassadors to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.

Recent studies from USDA show that more than 49 million Americans, nearly 16 million of whom are children, suffer from hunger. Studies show that school-aged children who experience severe hunger are at increased risk for homelessness, obesity, chronic health conditions, stressful life conditions, depression, anxiety, withdrawal and poor self-esteem.

UnitedHealthcare serves more than 1 million people in Tennessee with a network of 142 hospitals and more than 25,000 physicians and other care providers statewide.

About Tennessee 4-H
Tennessee 4-H encourages diverse groups of youth to develop their unique skills and talents to the fullest potential. Young people participate in 4-H through clubs, special interest groups, after-school programs, camps and many other activities. "Learning by doing" through hands-on activities and community involvement empowers 4-H'ers to develop and strengthen life skills.  4-H is a family affair. This includes the parent-child relationship and the extended family of community and state. It is a unique blend of government, private business and volunteers working together to broaden the horizons of Tennessee's young people.  To learn more visit

About UnitedHealthcare
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. UnitedHealthcare 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 or follow @myUHC on Twitter.