The Whole Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Whole Foods Market, launched its annual Growing Healthy Kids Campaign this week. The campaign's aim is to fund programs in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom with the goal of “working to create a deeper connection between kids and food.”
This year, the Foundation hopes to raise $3 million, an amount the group estimates will fund 620 educational fruit and vegetable gardens and 450 salad bars in schools, as well as healthy teacher programs and educational bee programs for students. Applications for grants are being accepted through mid-October.
“The programs we fund are doing incredibly important work to help young people learn more about where their food comes from and shape healthy food choices for the rest of their lives,” Nona Evans, president and executive director of Whole Kids Foundation, said in a press release. “As we kick off this year’s campaign, we are inspired by the fact that data shows this work is positively impacting our children’s health and contributing to their academic success.”
Evans notably cites 2016 Pew data showing that the presence of salad bars, more than any other school initiative, encourages healthy choices among students. The research shows that most directors who increased the use of salad bars in their schools noted that children ate more fruits and vegetables as a result.
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Evans also cites a 2016 study linking childhood gardening to healthier diets once these students reach college.
Several Whole Foods Market suppliers, including Annie’s, Tom’s of Maine, and Horizon Organic are adding their support to this effort. Corporate contributions from these and other sponsors are estimated to total $1 million this year.
Since it was established in 2011, the Whole Kids Foundation has invested more than $19 million in programs serving more than 5.7 million children.
According to the CDC, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s, with nearly one in five children between the ages of five and nineteen affected by obesity today.
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