With fears that food insecurity could dramatically increase as layoffs and furloughs continue due to the coronavirus, two UW-Madison alumni are teaming up to make a difference.
Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter and former Badger, now Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Russell Wilson are pledging to donate 10 million meals to the hunger relief organization Feeding America. They’re calling it Meals Up.
The idea started with Wilson and his wife, singer and songwriter Ciara. “We started doing our research, Ciara and I, and we found out that Feeding America is such a great program,” Wilson said during a CNBC interview on April 21. “Forty years of doing good in the world and trying to make a difference.”
The couple’s philanthropy inspired Dichter to mobilize his own network and resources in an effort to help struggling Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are 37 million Americans that are food insecure on a regular day,” Dichter told CNBC.
“The worry is that this may double,” Wilson added.
Dichter earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from UW-Madison in 1990. Prior to coming to Madison, Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast/communications at North Carolina State University. While at UW-Madison, Wilson played football for the Badgers and pursued a master’s degree from the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.
The nonprofit Feeding America serves 40 million people facing hunger across the nation every year, including 11 million children and 7 million seniors. The 40-year-old organization works with food banks and pantries to address food insecurity in the U.S.
According to Feeding America, 92 percent of food banks reported seeing an increase in demand for food assistance between March 19 and March 23, and 64 percent reported a decline in food donation and volunteers during the same survey period.
Through Feeding America, a $1 donation helps provide 10 meals. More than 98 percent of money donated goes directly to those in need. “It really makes a difference,” Wilson said. “Each dollar is roughly 12 pounds of food.”