United Way MV’s Take and Make meal box giveaway series provides more than 128,500 meals
Project funded by the City of Utica
United Way of the Mohawk Valley (United Way MV) hosted a three-part food distribution series, giving away more than 128,500 meals to help provide access to food to the city of Utica residents over the past several months. Each distribution ranged from a total of 1,500 to 1,700 meal boxes filled with fresh produce, meat, and other ingredients.
A total of 4,800 meal boxes with thousands of ready-to-make meals were given to residents as part of United Way MV’s Take and Make meal box series funded through a grant from the City of Utica out of their Community Development Block Grant CV – CARES Act as part of COVID-19 relief efforts.
“It is important that government entities, including the City, work in collaboration with our community partners to provide assistance and resources to individuals who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19,” said City of Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri. “I am pleased the city’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds are being utilized to distribute food to residents in need. I commend the United Way for coordinating the food distribution, as well as Casa Imports and Karam Produce for their continued support and generosity.”
With distributions in October, February, and April, each meal box kit included ingredients to prepare at least 5 meals for a family of 5. Each kit had its own theme, representing the diversity within the city of Utica including Italian, Southwestern, and Mediterranean, and came complete with just about everything needed to create meals including step-by-step recipe cards.
United Way MV partnered with Casa Imports and Karam Produce, to bring fresh produce, meat, and other ingredients to families as part of the meal boxes. Sovena, Inc. in Rome, NY also donated olive oil!
“Casa Imports and Karam Produce is excited to again partner in United Way MV’s community outreach efforts. We always appreciate the opportunity to assist local organizations to provide for families in need,” said Ryan Sunderlin, Casa Import’s Director of Fresh Produce Operations.
“Eating and living a healthy lifestyle is engrained in what we do at Sovena, USA. Now more than ever, it is important for us to help the people of our community live in healthier ways,” said Natalie Jennings, Sovena USA Marketing Associate. “Olive oil offers a healthy option to your favorite meals as it helps fight heart disease, reduces the risk of certain cancers, and more. We are proud to support the work of United Way and the City of Utica by donating enough oil to supply families in need with a heart-healthy ingredient.”
United Way MV’s Take and Make meal box distribution was successful thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who helped. Each giveaway included three days of volunteers helping prepare, pack, and distribute the meal boxes. With more than 200 volunteers over multiple days, shifts, and tasks, coordinating this effort was made much easier with the help of United Way Mv’s Volunteers United Platform.
'Volunteers United' was launched by United Way MV in partnership with BME and Hummel’s Office Plus, in the summer of 2020. This platform and is an asset to non-profits and community members looking to give back with their time. From a volunteer perspective, it allows you to find volunteer opportunities with organizations making a difference in your passion areas, finding new ways to connect and give back to the community, tracking your volunteer time, and even an easy-to-produce volunteer resume. If you are a local company or organization, you can even sign up to volunteer as a team and track and report on your group’s volunteer efforts. The platform helps non-profits coordinate their volunteer needs and communications while engaging more people in their work.
To learn more about Volunteers United and get involved, visit www.unitedwaymv.org/volunteer.
Another asset that helped United Way launch an effort of this size was their 211 service and its texting capabilities. United Way needed a system to make the Take and Make meal box registration easy. United Way’s 211 services allowed individuals the ability to send a text to receive the registration link. It also allowed an outlet for those without internet, computer, or smart device to call their three-digit phone number, 2-1-1, to register.
For more information on 211 powered by United Way MV visit, www.unitedwaymv.org/211.
“Our Take and Make food distribution series arranged boxes of healthy and fresh food in a way that allowed families to create balanced homecooked meals,” said Erin Gutierrez Matt, United Way MV CEO. “This project is an example of how United Way MV uses innovation, connects people, and creates a solution to problems facing our community members.”