Union Pacific Foundation will begin distributing checks totaling $336,500 to 39 institutions in Utah.

Charles N. Olsen, the foundation's president, said the final distribution of funds will be made in October to United Way organizations.Union Pacific Foundation, which has written grants since 1959, is giving $7 million nationally in 1988 to more than 790 institutions of higher education, health, social welfare and the arts located primarily in Western communities served by the Union Pacific operating companies: Union Pacific Railroad Co., Union Pacific Resources Co. and Union Pacific Realty Co.

Olsen said many of the grants are designed to help recipients help themselves. Some will be used to help finance energy conservation programs, while others will assist in projects that increase staff efficiency and productivity and thus create ongoing cost savings for the institution.