Bridging the Gap: United Way's Innovative Solutions for Food Access

Food delivery

For some members of our community, accessing food can be a challenging task. United Way recognizes the barriers that various groups face, including homebound individuals, new parents, rural residents, night shift workers, senior citizens, and those without access to a car. In the past, obtaining food from a pantry could be a daunting task for these individuals. However, United Way is committed to supporting innovative programs that are filling the gaps in local food access, ensuring that no neighbor goes hungry.

Ride United Last Mile Delivery

United Way's Ride United: Last Mile Delivery initiative is a groundbreaking program in partnership with DoorDash. It was designed to deliver essential items, such as food, to the doorsteps of families in need. This program is a game-changer for those who cannot access essential items on their own, including new mothers, individuals with disabilities, and homebound seniors. Support for this program is provided by a grant from United Way Worldwide and our Farmers Feeding Families program.

  • Community Partnerships: United Way collaborates with local food pantries and nonprofits to ensure that necessities are delivered to neighbors in need at no cost.
  • Accessibility: By providing last-mile delivery, the program ensures that individuals without transportation can access nutritious food and essential resources.
  • Community Impact: In the past year, Ride United Last Mile Delivery has made 2,365 deliveries to over 150 households, significantly improving access to food.
  • Economic Opportunity: Dashers (delivery persons) are compensated for their work, creating work opportunities and contributing to the local economy.

Farmers Feeding Families

United Way's Farmers Feeding Families program is another innovative initiative that addresses food access challenges. This program is a unique partnership between United Way, Parkland College, Unit 4 Schools, and local agribusinesses. 

  • Community Harvest: Parkland College students harvest United Way’s crops, generating substantial funds to support local food programs.
  • Financial Support: Over the past ten years, this program has provided over $300,000 to support food programs, making a significant impact on food access.
  • Community Impact: United Way uses the proceeds from the harvest to support a range of programs aimed at improving food access. This includes support for food pantries, backpack programs in local schools, home delivery programs like Ride United, and Meals on Wheels, and a Food Fund at the Foodbank.
  • Hands-On Learning: The program also serves as a hands-on learning lab for Parkland College Agriculture Technology students, allowing them to apply their classroom knowledge in a real-world environment.

United Way is leading the charge in addressing food access challenges for our neighbors who need it most. Through programs like Ride United: Last Mile Delivery and Farmers Feeding Families, we are working to ensure that no one in the community goes hungry.

By thinking outside of the box - and finding innovative funding streams to support these ideas - United Way is making a real difference in the lives of homebound individuals, new parents, rural residents, night shift workers, senior citizens, and those without access to a car. Together, we can build a stronger, more resilient community where food is accessible to all.

Support these innovative programs with a gift to United Way of Champaign County's Community Impact Fund today!