Former Badger Russell Wilson Helping Fight Hunger During COVID-19 Crisis

MADISONWI (April 21, 2020)  —  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,” said Wilson during a CNBC interview today. “Forty years of doing good in the world and trying to make a difference.” Wilson and his wife have already donated 1 million meals to Feeding America.

The couple’s philanthropy inspired Kenny 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 said. Wilson, is a member of Wheels Up, a private jet company founded by Dichter.

Nonprofit Feeding America serves about 40 million people facing hunger in all 50 states and Puerto Rico per year, including 11 million children and 7 million seniors. The 40-year-old organization works with food banks and pantries across the country to address food insecurity.

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 of food banks reported a decline in food donations 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.”

Dichter and Wilson are contacting other celebrities to get them involved in the effort.