Battling food insecurity one meal at a time

Aetna Medicare again sponsored the annual Philabundance Agency Appreciation Event to honor Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey community partners that fight hunger. Philabundance, the area’s largest hunger-relief organization, presented 2020 Hunger Hero Awards to outstanding individuals from five member agencies.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event couldn’t be held indoors. Instead, Aetna Medicare Community Lead Generator Desaree Jones and Olivia Edwards from Philabundance surprised the winners by travelling to their agencies to distribute the awards.

“People in these community organizations aren’t always publicly recognized for their efforts, so it was a great opportunity to share our thanks for the work they do,” said Jones. “Besides the awards, we brought balloons, a boxed lunch and a bag of Aetna and CVS Health goodies: hand sanitizer, face shields, face masks, shower gel and bubble bath. I really enjoyed interacting with the agencies and seeing their food pantries.”

Aetna’s National Director of Medicare Community Engagement Ricardo Maldonado joined Jones at the awards presentation at Liberti Church, as he lives nearby. Although he no longer works in the Philadelphia market, Maldonado wouldn’t have missed this event. He was also one the driving forces behind creating and sponsoring last year’s inaugural event.

Six people standing on the steps of Liberti Church holding a sign that reads, "hunger heroes"
Honoring Liberti Church Director Vito Baldini (third from left) are (from left) Aetna's Desaree Jones, Philabundance's Emily Glick and Margarita Cruz, and Aetna's Ricardo Maldonado and Jessica Velez.

“Despite COVID-19, we wanted to acknowledge these agencies’ efforts to support their communities during these difficult times,” Maldonado emphasized. “We know how much the neighborhoods appreciate the agencies’ work, because hunger doesn’t go away. That’s why I’m so grateful CVS Health recognized Philabundance earlier this year, awarding a $25,000 grant to support its food bank.”

Like Maldonado, Jones draws energy from community service. Before joining Aetna, she created neighborhood events in Philadelphia and Delaware County for the Pennsylvania State Senate for 12 years.

“It’s important to give back,” affirmed Jones, who shared that she received help from a food bank years ago while battling an illness. “I always say ‘How can I be of assistance?’ because I know what it’s like when you need food. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s real, that I’m doing work I love to help others. My job is a blessing and a great opportunity to develop relationships for Aetna Medicare throughout the Philadelphia area.”