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Magic in the Air in Orlando

Magic in the Air in Orlando

I was standing on a second-floor balcony at the RDV Sportsplex in Orlando and I’m not certain, but I think it was the exciting scene below me which made my hands tremble as I held up my camera. I focused in on 200 volunteers including Orlando Magic players Evan Fournier and Victor Oladipo, UnitedHealthcare employees and Magic staff as they raced each other to pack more than 12,000 meals for hungry children. This marked the fourth year the groups teamed up to support Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Hi-Five Kids Packs program that serves hungry elementary school children in the tri-county area.

Each Pack, which children consume over the weekend when they don’t have access to school meals, contains nutritious, kid-friendly food such as cereal, shelf-stable milk and juice, fruit cups and more. The food bank partners with elementary schools that have a significant percentage of student participation in free- and reduced-priced lunch programs. Last fiscal year, they provided 42,917 food packs to needy children at 27 schools.

Tara Angus, a UnitedHealth Group employee, drove over two hours to volunteer at the project. When I asked Tara why she was so passionate about it she said “No child should ever be hungry and it is so sad that this is a reality in the Florida area. This project helps to feed so many of those kids that go hungry. And by doing so, they are able to concentrate more at school and thrive. Without folks volunteering, many of these kind acts would not be possible. Coming together to put this all together solidifies how much the community cares! I will continue to do this for years to come!”

The Orlando Magic staff view the project as their annual day of service and rally around the cause. Jordan Whitehead, corporate partnership account coordinator for the Magic, said the project “is always a favorite day of our staff.”

Research has shown a direct correlation between obesity and hunger due to the limited availability of healthy food options. Households with limited resources often try to stretch their food budgets by purchasing inexpensive, energy-dense foods that are filling. According to the University of South Florida, nearly one in three children in Florida are either overweight or obese.

Since 2013, UnitedHealthcare and the Orlando Magic have packed nearly 50,000 meals for children in need. I was thrilled to be able to capture part of that effort and feel the magic in the air.

Jaime McKenzie is a social responsibility program manager for UnitedHealthcare.

Click here to see pictures from this project.

About Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (SHFBCF) is a member of Feeding America – the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States. SHFBCF secures and distributes food and grocery products to approximately 500 local nonprofit feeding programs throughout Central Florida.  Last year, with the help of numerous donors, volunteers and a caring, committed community, the food bank distributed more than 36 million pounds of grocery products – the equivalent of more than 24 million meals – to partner programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, senior centers, day care centers and Kids Cafes. On average, more than 55,000 different people receive assistance provided by SHFBCF each week. To learn more about SHFBCF, visit www.FeedHopeNow.org.


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