Continuing its efforts to promote health and wellness, the Aetna Foundation has awarded a $75,000 grant to FoodCorps. The funding aims to help transform eating habits of children from low-income communities by promoting nutrition, teaching gardening and expanding healthful school food choices.
To pursue its work, FoodCorps recruits emerging leaders for a year of full-time public service dedicated to improving child health in limited-resource communities. Working with partner organizations in K-12 public schools, these AmeriCorps service members use a three-ingredient recipe for healthy kids: teaching children what healthy food is and where it comes from, helping them grow fresh food in school gardens, and working with farmers, chefs and others to transform school meals.
The Aetna Foundation grant will support team members leading FoodCorps’ activities in Arizona among children in the Navajo, White Mountain Apache, and Tohono O’odham reservation communities. Here, childhood overweight and obesity rates approach 50%, and children as young as six have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes.
“We are pleased to support FoodCorps, and applaud their inspiring and productive approach to improving nutrition and reducing diet-related health problems in Arizona’s American Indian communities,” said Gillian Barclay, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of national grant making. “By combining nutrition education with hands-on activities, FoodCorps is giving children the knowledge and tools to acquire or grow healthful foods and to effectively incorporate these foods into their diets at home and at school.”
Beyond the quantitative measures of FoodCorps’ impact, the organization’s Arizona team reports children running to snatch up veggie snacks after they have spent a lesson learning how vegetables are grown. Service members also cite the success of Family Feast nights and community workshops. At these events, parents talk about the quality of school food and ways to increase their communities’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables.