After learning how communities of color in the United States are taking the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, the multinational corporation PepsiCo has announced a $7 million initiative to provide medical and financial assistance.
This is an economic stimulus of immediate relief and long-term recovery, the company said in a press release, and has been organized in conjunction with the National Urban League and UnidosUS “to help feed families and seniors, increase medical care and testing, expand access to government support and provide technology for remote education and work, with a portion of the funds focused on post-recovery relief.”
The distribution includes $1 million for the National Urban League, and $5 million for local partners to ensure testing and screening for COVID-19, access to affordable nutrition, health care services, education, labor resources, financial assistance, and housing, among others.
Another $100,000 will be granted to the Farmworkers Pandemic Relief Fund, “providing critical emergency assistance to America’s farmworkers who are supporting our food supply during the pandemic,” the statement adds.
According to Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, the initiative also aims to “raise awareness and encourage other companies and public sector agencies to step up,” and will continue “for the duration of the pandemic,” he told NBC News.
“They are our employees and consumers,” Williams added.
“Across the nation, the burden of COVID-19 is being disproportionately shouldered by Black and Latino communities that are facing higher rates of hospitalization, death and economic hardships,” said Kirk Tanner, Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Beverages North America. “That’s why PepsiCo, our brands and our people have mobilized to offer our support. And we know a crisis of this scale requires a collective effort. We’re calling on our partners and network to support the communities of color that we are proud to serve and where our teams live and work.”
Support from PepsiCo is directed to 15 of the nation’s hardest-hit metro areas that have high populations of Black and Latino residents and are among the cities where the company has strong ties and where many of its employees live and serve, specifically: Baltimore, the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami-Dade, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.
However, PepsiCo has been heavily criticized for raising product prices during the pandemic, to which Williams responded that the increase was “modest but not significant,” and that it was focused on ensuring “the health and safety of our employees.”
“It’s a tough environment to operate,” he added. “We’re trying to keep product prices low, we’re trying our best.”
In recent weeks, the multinational unveiled its two new direct-to-consumer websites for snacks and beverages, which has attracted the attention of those who believe it is an economic strategy to channel revenue away from one of the most successful markets during the pandemic: grocery stores.
But Williams assured that it is not a temporary initiative, and that PepsiCo intends to make it part of the company’s new business system, pivoting and adapting to new modes of commerce. “It’s about establishing a direct relationship with consumers and also making sure that consumers can find our products, always and everywhere,” he concluded.