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 North Carolina 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.

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.”

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. 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.

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.