“America’s obesity problem does not affect all parts of our country equally. In addition to geographic, demographic and environmental factors, ethnicity also plays a major role, such as in Arizona, where American Indian children suffer obesity at three times the rate of non-Hispanic Whites,” said Curt Ellis, executive director of FoodCorps. “We are grateful for the Aetna Foundation’s support in advancing better nutrition among children in American Indian communities in Arizona, and for its genuine interest in our organization and its mission.”FoodCorps currently operates in 61 sites across 12 states. Last year, its service members worked with more than 50,000 young people to improve their access to healthy food and increase their understanding of a healthy diet. About the Aetna Foundation The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $412 million in grants and sponsorships, including $18 million in 2011. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.6 million hours since 2003. Aetna’s current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit www.AetnaFoundation.org. About FoodCorps FoodCorps is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce childhood obesity by increasing vulnerable children’s knowledge of, engagement with, and access to healthy food. FoodCorps launched its AmeriCorps service program in 2011 with a first class of 50 emerging leaders across 10 states, and has grown this year to 80 service members in 12 states. Its service members conduct food and nutrition education, build and tend school gardens, and expand farm-to-cafeteria sourcing of healthy food. The result is a wraparound environment of wellness that puts vulnerable children on a path toward prosperity and health.
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.