The United Health Foundation has pledged $5 million to provide urgent support for people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation will support national partnerships with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America and is part of UnitedHealth Group’s $50 million initial commitment to fight COVID-19 and support impacted populations, including health care workers, seniors and hard-hit communities.
“People experiencing homelessness and food insecurity are among the most vulnerable populations and the COVID-19 emergency has only compounded the risks they face every day,” said Heather Cianfrocco, United Health Foundation board member and chief executive officer, UnitedHealthcare Community & State. “By collaborating with proven, national partners like the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America, we will ensure critical aid is deployed quickly and effectively to those in urgent need.”
Details of the Partnerships
United Health Foundation will donate:
- $2.5 million to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council to support both urgent, immediate needs at local health care for homeless programs as well as longer-term needs to expand capacity;
- $1.5 million to the Feeding America network of member food banks for COVID-19 response needs, such as purchasing additional food to meet sudden increases in demand, supporting new distribution approaches and responding to a sudden decline in volunteers; and
- $1 million to Meals on Wheels America to support local programs addressing the immediate and ongoing needs of vulnerable seniors.
The Scope of the Problem
According to a March 20-23 survey of Feeding America’s network members, demand for food assistance has increased an average of 37%, and 40% report having an immediate critical funding shortfall — 64% have already dipped into their reserves. Meanwhile, approximately 300 of 1,100 programs eligible for the Meals on Wheels emergency grant program have already applied for assistance.
A History of Support
UnitedHealth Group has a long history of addressing homelessness and food insecurity — key determinants of health among vulnerable populations.
Since 2011, UnitedHealth Group has invested more than $400 million in its affordable housing initiative to build 80 affordable-housing communities throughout 18 states across the country. As a result, more than 4,500 new homes have been created for individuals and families in need, including seniors, military veterans, people living with disabilities and those struggling with homelessness.
Additionally, large areas of focus for UnitedHealth Group employee charitable donations are to support better nutrition and the fight against food insecurity. In 2019, for example, UnitedHealth Group employees donated more than $1 million to 495 different food and nutrition organizations. UnitedHealthcare also has a history of forming strategic grant partnerships that enable food banks to provide healthy, fresh food to underserved communities and has partnered with local community-based organizations to distribute more than 47 million meals since 2018. Lastly, UnitedHealth Group is helping its food service workers from Compass Group while also providing much-needed free and healthy meals to those in need in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. With office cafeterias closed (due to employees working from home), food service workers are producing 21,000 meals per week for families in need. The meals are being distributed in partnership with Second Harvest Heartland. UnitedHealth Group, which is paying $1 million for at least eight weeks of food and employee wages, is also looking at other markets to similarly repurpose office cafés and workers in order to serve communities in need.
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