The Air Products Foundation has announced a gift of $500,000 to United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley to expand education and food access programs with the organization’s community partners.
“The data is clear that access to healthy food and quality mental health and educational services, remain significant challenges for many of our community’s children and families. Air Products is proud to be a part of the solution to these challenges with our continued partnership with United Way,” said Simon Moore, Air Products’ vice president of investor relations, government relations and sustainability and president of the Air Products Foundation.
According to Feeding America, one in 10 Lehigh Valley residents face food insecurity, including one in six children.
Local food pantries supported by United Way served approximately 45,000 people last year, an 88% increase since the pandemic started.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to the lives and education of Lehigh Valley students, resulting in what the U.S. Surgeon General has described as a national “youth mental health crisis.”
“Our community has great needs, and our community partners have adapted and innovated to meet those growing and changing needs. This support will help to launch three new community initiatives that will ultimately make our students and families healthier, safer and more successful,” said Laurie Gostley Hackett, Air Products’ director of community relations and philanthropy, who chaired the annual United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley campaign.
The $500,000 contribution, which will be distributed over three years, was announced in Easton and will support the nonprofit Greater Easton Development Partnership’s West Ward Market.
In year one, the funding will support the creation of the outdoor market located near 12th and Northampton streets as well as provide additional support for students at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Bethlehem Area School District and expand food access in partnership with Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley.
The West Ward Market, run by the West Ward Community Initiative and Easton Market District, which are both programs of GEDP, will launch this summer and increase neighborhood access to fresh food and community programming.
The Air Products Foundation’s support will also meet critical needs of students in the Bethlehem Area School District. Air Products is the Community School partner at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, in partnership with United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Moravian University. Community Schools improve student outcomes by transforming high-poverty public schools into resource hubs that offer a range of support and opportunities to children, families and the surrounding neighborhood.
Funding will also support a new transportation vehicle for the food pantry program at Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley. During the pandemic, the food pantry program distributed 62,000 pounds of food to clients and delivered almost 20,000 pounds of foods to the homes of 52 seniors isolating and following safer-at-home orders.