By definition, flying refers to moving through the air. But Wheels Up, a leading private aviation company, does so much more than that.
Of course, Wheels Up focuses on flying its members and customers around the country and the globe but the company has woven philanthropy into the fabric of its mission through their ongoing Wheels Up Cares program.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, it quickly became clear to Wheels Up Chairman and CEO Kenny Dichter that food insecurity was having a profound effect across the country. He was inspired by Wheels Up brand ambassadors and friends Tom Brady, Russell and Ciara Wilson, Joey Logano, and J.J. Watt, who had all already supported Feeding America and its network food banks. Dichter quickly identified Feeding America as a partner and was “all in” to help raise awareness about food insecurity and inspire donations to support Feeding America’s mission. It was then that he and Russell Wilson appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” with Joe Kernan to launch the Wheels Up/Meals Up initiative in support of Feeding America. A month later, Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot was a guest on the same show to highlight Feeding America’s tireless work and key goals.
“When I first met Claire, I was deeply moved by the data she shared on food insecurity in the United States. It was clear to me, and everyone at Wheels Up, that it was our responsibility to help our fellow Americans, especially during the pandemic. We are continually inspired by the reach and depth of Feeding America's work,” said Dichter. “In a country that has so much, no one should go hungry. As part of Wheels Up Cares, Feeding America will always be our partner. We will go further together.”
For Dichter and his wife Shoshana, philanthropy begins at home. Hunger is non-negotiable because it’s one of the basic needs of life: food, water and shelter. With Feeding America, they know two of these basic needs are addressed. The Dichter family believes that with all the resources on this planet, equitable access to nourishing meals is a right, not a privilege. Dichter and his family feel fortunate that they can support Feeding America both personally and through Wheels Up.
Wheels Up leaned into the crisis and redirected meaningful marketing dollars to Feeding America and Meals Up, implementing a holistic approach to raise awareness and support for Feeding America and member food banks. From volunteering, to raising awareness and funds, to advocating for hunger relief, the Wheels Up team, led by their senior leadership, engages thoughtfully and creatively in the work of hunger relief.
Making an indelible commitment to fight hunger, Kenny and Gail Grimmett, Chief Experience Officer at Wheels Up and a former board member at Food Bank for New York City, implemented a plan to paint a Wheels Up Beechcraft King Air 350i airplane orange in honor of Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month in September 2020. Now, the orange plane flies in perpetuity as part of the Wheels Up Cares fleet while bringing awareness to the issue of hunger.
Since the Wheels Up partnership with Feeding America began in 2020, they have raised and inspired over 63 million meals for neighbors in need and it’s safe to say they’re just getting started.