The Air Products Foundation’s support will expand education and food access programs in partnership with Bethlehem Area School District, Greater Easton Development Partnership and Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley and is given in recognition of campaign chair Laurie Gostley Hackett.
Easton, PA, March 28, 2022 – 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 trusted 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, unfortunately, 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 percent 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 full and lasting impacts of the pandemic on our local children and families are just becoming known. Air Products and United Way have a strong partnership in evaluating community needs and providing the resources to meet them. With this donation, Air Products will create a far-reaching impact at a time when it is so needed,” added David Lewis, President, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
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 (GEDP) 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. Partners will include Paxinosa Elementary School, Easton Area School District, Lafayette College, YMCA of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Community Bike Works, Kellyn Foundation, Crayola as Paxinosa Elementary School’s United Way Community School partner, and the City of Easton.
“We are grateful for this support from Air Products, which will allow us to bring an outdoor, neighborhood market to the people of the West Ward and surrounding neighborhoods. Our market will support local businesses and farmers, and connect to a broader effort to support food entrepreneurship in Easton,” said Jared Mast, Executive Director, Greater Easton Development Partnership.
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.
“Young people who receive appropriate mental health support and opportunities to participate in after-school programming have improved academic achievement, are more likely to graduate and are more likely to attend and successfully complete college. This support from Air Products will allow us to expand services for students at Thomas Jefferson Elementary with a behavioral health specialist and an after-school activities coordinator,” said Dr. Joseph Roy, Superintendent of Bethlehem Area School District.
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.
“Our food pantry program provides clients with emergency food resources once per month. To ensure the food is both nutritious and fresh, food pantry staff picks up a weekly donation from a local grocer. A reliable vehicle is essential for this since we provide close to 2,000 pounds of food every week to our clients. A reliable vehicle enables us to provide continuous, uninterrupted services of our most vital programs and reach our neighbors in need,” remarked Victoria Montero, Executive Director, Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley.
Through United Way’s annual campaign, Air Products and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley have partnered to expand access to healthy, nutritious food with the Air Products Fresh Food Promise. For every new donor to United Way during the 2021-22 annual campaign, the Air Products Foundation will make a contribution in support of United Way’s food access work to provide fresh, healthy food for local families.
There is still time to make a contribution to The Fresh Food Promise as it remains available for all new donations received by March 31, 2022.