Across America, kids are settling back into school routines. They are making new friends, trying new activities, and taking on new subjects to learn.
But there’s something else that happens this time of year: many children also return to depend on the availability of a healthy meal at a school breakfast, lunch or afterschool program. In the United States, hunger is a critical issue in the lives of far too many families. The USDA reports that in 2015, 42.2 million people in America, including more than 13 million children, lived in households that are at risk of struggling with hunger.
At the Walmart Foundation, we envision a world where families have access to healthy food – when and where they need it. Together with Walmart, we are supporting organizations that are fighting hunger in ways that create long-term positive change, like providing meal programs, offering nutrition education, and increasing access to fruits and vegetables. Two years ago, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation pledged to help provide 4 billion meals to people in need by 2020. Because of the great work being done by our grantees, we are already over halfway there – but we know that there is more work to do.
Today we are announcing $33 million in grants to nonprofit organizations working in local communities across the country. Each of these organizations is bringing their passion, creativity and unique talents to helping families access healthy food. Here are just a few examples:
The Chef Ann Foundation helps schools establish lunchroom learning programs that teach kids about different varieties of fresh produce and allow them to sample fruits and vegetables that they may not normally have access to. The fun and educational activities are encouraging even the pickiest of eaters to try – and enjoy – new, healthier foods, take their newfound tastes back to their families, and develop good eating habits in school and out.
The National Recreation and Parks Association offers meal programs and nutrition education across the country. This summer, one of those in the Baltimore area helped children at the Lincoln Park Community Center plant and maintain a vegetable garden for the summer. After growing squash, peppers, radishes and cabbage, many of the kids said they felt personally connected to their crops.
Another grantee, Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, is helping kids start their day with solid nutrition. After implementing one program in Denver Public Schools where 10,484 additional students began receiving school breakfast every day, the initiative was deemed so successful that it served as a model for the entire state. Colorado enacted new “Breakfast after the Bell” legislation which requires schools to serve a free, nutritious breakfast to all students if 80% or more of the student body is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
Investing in these organizations is how we can help make a difference one community at a time. Each grant may be one step, but an important one. It will take more organizations, individuals, community leaders and companies working together to make the vision of a nation without hunger a reality.