Anita Bachmann, vice president, UnitedHealthcare, and Senator Terry Van Duyn and Representative John Ager follow Hannah Randall, MANNA FoodBank CEO, as she leads volunteers into a MANNA Express truck that will be filled with fresh, perishable foods. MANNA FoodBank is receiving a $25,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina to expand its MANNA Express program, an innovative "just-in-time" distribution system that uses volunteer drivers to bring fresh, perishable foods like produce, dairy and fresh/frozen meats to hunger relief agencies in 16 counties of western North Carolina. (Photo credit: Susannah Kay)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Aug. 23, 2016) — UnitedHealthcare has donated $75,000 to three organizations in North Carolina to help improve access to healthy, affordable food throughout the state.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC in Winston-Salem, MANNA FoodBank in Asheville and OIC Family Medical Center in Rocky Mount will each receive a $25,000 grant to implement innovative and timely programs to address food insecurity in the communities they serve.

The grants are part of UnitedHealthcare's ongoing effort to identify and support organizations in North Carolina that help seniors, individuals with disabilities and disadvantaged people live healthier lives.

"These organizations are implementing important programs in North Carolina that are making a difference in the lives of many individuals and families who need a helping hand," said Anita Bachmann, vice president of UnitedHealthcare. "Through their work in the community and UnitedHealthcare's support we are working together to help people live healthier lives through education, training and outreach programs."

Food insecurity is a reality for many North Carolinians, particularly among children, seniors and individuals with disabilities. According to America's Health Rankings®, North Carolina ranks 43rd out of 50 states for senior hunger. The state faces a higher prevalence of food insecurity than the national average, with several cities ranking among the highest in the country, including Greensboro, High Point, Asheville and Winston-Salem. There are 349 food deserts in 80 counties statewide.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC will use the $25,000 grant to implement a program to provide customized, healthy meal boxes and nutrition education/budgeting classes to patients identified as food insecure by Wake Forest Baptist Health-Downtown Health Plaza in Winston-Salem and Ashe Memorial Hospital in Jefferson. The health centers will screen more than 11,000 people for food insecurity, and the food bank will provide up to 1,700 patients with a customized, healthy meal box and a referral for continued food assistance, nutrition education and smart-shopping classes. In Jefferson, Ashe County Sharing Center will serve as a partner in the program.

"UnitedHealthcare's support is so important as we work to provide increased access to healthy food for community members in need," said Clyde Fitzgerald, executive director, Second Harvest Food Bank. "This grant increases service to individuals with specific health needs who are struggling to afford sufficient, healthy food to maintain and improve their health."

The $25,000 grant for MANNA FoodBank will be used to expand its successful MANNA Express program. MANNA Express is an innovative "just-in-time" distribution system that uses volunteer drivers to bring fresh, perishable foods like produce, dairy and fresh/frozen meats to hunger relief agencies in 16 Western North Carolina counties. The goal of MANNA Express is to increase service to reach up to 180 people per week, distribute 2,500 pounds of nutritious food per week and improve food choices for clients.

"We are grateful for UnitedHealthcare's support of our MANNA Express program," said Hannah Randall, CEO, MANNA Food Bank. "We serve some very remote areas of our state and have seen a growth in demand from local agencies for more fresh fruits and vegetables. This grant will go a long way in supporting our efforts to deliver fresh and perishable items to people in need while promoting healthier diets."

OIC Family Medical Center of Rocky Mount will use its $25,000 grant to provide more than 150 low-income residents in Nash and Edgecombe counties who have diabetes and/or another chronic disease with weekly nutrition education classes, fresh produce to take home, and intensive case management services for clients who have diabetes. The program aims to improve diabetes self-management and increase patients' knowledge about healthy eating and nutrition.

"For patients with diabetes and other types of chronic disease, maintaining a healthy diet is critical, but the learning curve can be very steep, which is why this grant from UnitedHealthcare is so important," said Reuben Blackwell, president and CEO of OIC. "Reaching these individuals and providing nutrition education classes and other programs will help people in these communities."

The $75,000 in grants were announced at the Second Harvest Food Bank Northwest NC and MANNA FoodBank where UnitedHealthcare employees joined community leaders, food bank executives and local volunteers in organizing food distribution and loading delivery trucks to support individuals and families supported through the programs.

UnitedHealthcare serves more than 1.3 million North Carolinians enrolled in employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare health plans with a network of 142 hospitals and more than 28,000 physicians and other care providers statewide.

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 1 million 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 www.uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.

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Volunteers and staff from Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest N.C. along with executives from UnitedHealthcare and community leaders gather to celebrate a $25,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare to implement a program to provide customized, healthy meal boxes and nutrition education/budgeting classes to patients identified by Wake Forest Baptist Health-Downtown Health Plaza in Winston-Salem and Ashe Memorial Hospital in Jefferson as food insecure. (Photo credit: Lauren Carroll)