Health is an essential building block for success—for individuals and communities. We know that kids are more likely to succeed in school if they’re healthy and well-fed when they enter the classroom. We know that adults who make healthy choices and have access to quality health care are more productive in the workplace, and more likely to progress in their careers. And we know that healthy, thriving communities are fertile ground for a strong business sector able to compete in today’s market.
The factors that determine our health go beyond the doctor’s office, and solutions to the health challenges that people and communities face must go beyond the doctor’s office as well. To tackle the issue of health on such a large scale, we must first recognize that no single organization can do it alone. That’s why United Way exists: we look at what works, what’s missing, and then leverage our reputation, resources and relationships to fill the gaps. To do that, we work with partners from all sectors of society—partners like the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), an organization founded by 16 food and beverage companies. HWCF’s mission is to reduce obesity, and they hold themselves accountable by measuring their progress along the way. In just five years, HWCF members have removed 6.4 trillion calories from the marketplace, which represents a 78-calorie reduction per person, per day.
Consider one example of HWCF in action: at the William E. Russell Elementary School outside Boston, 100% of students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. Access to healthy food is a good start, but tight quarters have limited opportunities for healthy physical activity. With a $30,000 grant from HWCF and a matching commitment from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the school was able to add a permanent salad bar to lunch and soundproof a multipurpose room to create a gymnasium. Students now also work in a garden on campus, providing fresh produce for snacks. Not only does the garden generate fruit for daily snacks, it also helped increase student activity to 60 minutes a day and brought parents in to volunteer.
This is just one example of the partnerships needed to create healthier communities. The good news is that businesses, governments and nonprofits are more engaged on the issue than ever, and they know together we can accomplish more than any one of us can on our own.
That work is fueled by people like you—people who are passionate about making a difference for their families, their neighbors and themselves. Want to find out what you can do to make your community a healthier place to live? To find your local United Way, text “local” to 51555.