Thousands of Twin Cities families will have access to free and healthy food, as UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) leads an effort to create and provide 21,000 meals each week, for the next eight-plus weeks. The plan comes as nonprofits report massive increases in the number of families needing help in accessing food due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
UnitedHealth Group leaders devised the plan while looking to help food service workers who are no longer working in its recently closed office cafeterias, while also providing a larger community benefit. Within days, employees of Compass Group began assembling meals at UnitedHealth Group’s Optum headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn.
“During this unprecedented public health emergency, getting a healthy meal will increasingly become a core need for many Minnesotans,” said Brett Edelson, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Minnesota. “We have a group of people ready to help. We’re proud to have been able to quickly reallocate space and resources to contribute to this effort.”
Second Harvest Heartland, a partner in this effort through its newly created Minnesota Central Kitchen initiative, says three out of every four people they serve are working families, and that they are seeing a dramatic spike in need.
“In some cases, our partners are telling us requests have more than doubled in just the last week,” said Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland. “We are grateful for our community partners, including UnitedHealth Group and Compass Group, for their much-needed help.”
Each day, beginning Monday of this week, completed meals will be picked up and distributed to 37 Loaves & Fishes meal distribution sites located throughout the greater Twin Cities. UnitedHealth Group, which is covering the approximately $1 million cost of the food and wages for the Compass Group employees, expects the effort to continue for at least eight weeks.
Meals are being prepared by more than 20 Compass Group employees who normally cook for and serve the UnitedHealth Group employees who now work primarily from home because of government-mandated stay-at-home orders.
Menu selection will be directed by Compass Group’s Chef Robert Schoonover and will include meals such as rotisserie style chicken, herb roasted beef, Cajun seared tilapia and maple glazed pit ham. Chef Schoonover and Christianna Gozzi, Compass Group’s wellness director and registered dietitian for UnitedHealth Group, are responsible for bringing healthier food options to UnitedHealth Group employees.
“We’re honored to be able to do our part in helping those in need during this difficult time,” said Schoonover. “Eating a well-balanced meal is an important component to staying healthy and we are humbled by the opportunity. The Compass team is thankful to UnitedHealth Group for keeping our workers employed in a purpose-driven way during this period.”
This effort is part of UnitedHealth Group’s recently announced $50 million commitment to support communities affected by COVID-19. UnitedHealth Group is also looking at other markets to similarly repurpose office cafés and workers in order to serve communities in need.
About UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is a diversified health care company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and helping to make the health system work better for everyone. UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through two distinct platforms: UnitedHealthcare, which provides health care coverage and benefits services; and Optum, which provides information and technology-enabled health services. For more information, visit UnitedHealth Group at www.unitedhealthgroup.com or follow @UnitedHealthGrp on Twitter.
About Eurest USA
Eurest is a $1.75 billion food and vending organization serving the business and industry market with over 2,000 locations and more than 18,000 associates throughout the United States. Eurest serves more than 850,000 guests daily and is a sector of North Carolina-based Compass Group North America. Compass Group North America is the leading foodservice management and support services company with $18.6 billion USD in revenue in 2018. Compass Group North America is owned by Compass Group PLC based in the United Kingdom, operating in 45 countries with 600,000 associates worldwide. For more information, visit eurest-usa.com.
About Minnesota Central Kitchen
Minnesota Central Kitchen brings together restaurants, caterers and hunger-fighting organizations to tackle hunger and layoffs brought on by the coronavirus. Empowering our state’s hospitality professionals to keep working at what they do best — feeding hungry people — despite restaurant closures, the initiative also responds to the growing need for food assistance in the state. The effort is led by Second Harvest Heartland, core partners Chowgirls Catering and Loaves & Fishes and a growing coalition of restaurants, including The Bachelor Farmer and Restaurant Alma. Powered by partners’ kitchen space, staff, supplies and expertise, Minnesota Central Kitchen will prepare, package and distribute up to 10,000 individual and family-style takeout meals per day to hungry Minnesotans. Takeout meals are distributed daily at Loaves & Fishes dining sites. For locations and hours of operation, or to make a financial and/or food donation, visit 2harvest.org.