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From Wheels Up To Meals Up

How one private aviation company is taking action to raise awareness for the millions of hungry Americans who need help right now

Private aviation company Wheels Up just unveiled an orange plane in honor of Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month.Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter partnered with Feeding America this March on a program aptly named Meals Up, which has since supplied over 47 million meals to those in need during the Covid-19 crisis. Through Feeding America’s vast network of food banks across the country, these meals will feed those who were already food insecure or currently in need due to lost wages or difficulty accessing food. The organization, which was founded in 1979, donates over 4 billion meals each year to over 60,000 soup kitchens, pantries and churches across the country. By leveraging the Wheels Up network of friends, members, investors and ambassadors, Dichter has been doing his part to inspire those with the means to do so. Feeding America projected up to 54 million people will face hunger in 2020 and the organization has seen a 60 percent increased demand in need across 200 food banks since the pandemic hit this winter.

The Wheels Up Orange Plane will be a flying symbol to raise awareness for food insecurity and will become a permanent part of the fleet. Wheels Up has also galvanized some of America’s most iconic airports to support this cause by lighting up in orange to help bring attention to the issue of hunger. “Wheels Up has been a steadfast partner to Feeding America,” says Feeding America’s CEO, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot. “Hunger Action Month is just that–a time for us all to act–and provide meals for the millions of Americans who need our help, especially during these unprecedented times.”

We talked to Wheels Up’s founder and CEO Kenny Dichter about how he’s pitching in and staying sane.

How can Wheels Up rise to the challenge we’re all facing in the world right now?

“Wheels Up warmly embraces charity. Our Wheels Up Cares program supports breast and ovarian cancer awareness, heart health and military families. With the power and passion of our Wheels Up network of over 8,000 members, investors and ambassadors; we created a new initiative, Meals Up, to inspire everyone to do their part because we all have a responsibility to do our part for the greater good.”

How did you decide to partner with Feeding America for this initiative?

“I was inspired by my friends and partners Russell Wilson and Ciara for their recent donation of 1 million meals through Feeding America to the food banks in Seattle—and JJ Watt for his recent work with Feeding America and past experience with the organization during the Hurricane Harvey crisis in Houston.”

What makes the organization so great?

“Feeding America is one of the most effective organizations at getting food into the hands of people who need it most—they’ve been around for over 40 years and serve over 4 billion meals each year through food banks across the country.”

Who of your brand ambassadors are getting involved?

“We’re already working with our Wheels Up ambassadors Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, Serena Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez as well as my good friends and partners Tim Armstrong, Joe Poulin and my lead Wheels Up director David Adelman who are supporting and helping us mobilize our Wheels Up network.”

Russell Wilson and Kenny Dichter