BENTONVILLE, Ark. — The Walmart Foundation on Monday announced the start of a summer-long initiative to help children and families gain access to nutritious meals and learn healthy-eating habits. The family-focused initiative includes $15 million in grants that will provide meals and nutrition education to 1.4 million children and families in more than 1,500 communities. The six nonprofit organizations set to receive grant funding from the Walmart Foundation, include Children’s Health Fund, Food Research and Action Center, League of United Latin American Citizens, National 4-H Council, National Recreation and Park Association and YMCA of the USA. Additionally, as part of the initiative, Walmart today kicked off a five-week Eat Healthy Together Challenge that is designed to encourage families to prepare and eat healthy meals together throughout the summer.
In addition to the grants from the Walmart Foundation to support nutrition education and healthy summer meals, Walmart is collaborating with Chef Lorena Garcia, renowned chef and author with TV appearances on BRAVO’s “Top Chef Masters” and NBC’s “Biggest Loser,” to launch the Eat Healthy Together Challenge. The challenge encourages families to eat healthy meals together at least three times a week.
“Parents and caregivers are the single most influential role model when it comes to nutrition; in turn, it falls on their shoulders to help children learn healthy eating habits,” Garcia said. “Walmart’s Eat Healthy Together Challenge is a fun, interactive way to help encourage more families to eat healthy together by providing them with the resources they need to succeed. Fostering a routine now will help ensure the habit continues during the school year and beyond.”
According to a new FRAC report issued earlier this month, the number of children participating in the United States Department of Agriculture's Summer Nutrition Programs increased last year, yet the need for greater access to meals during the summer months while school is out of session remains significant. Last year, only 1-in-7 children who needed summer meals received them, leaving children vulnerable to negative impacts on their health and development during the summer months when regular school meals are not provided. Eating healthy food reduces a child’s risk of disease, helps maintain proper growth and development and improves their memory and mood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We know that summer can be a challenging time for millions of children who rely on the nutrition from free or reduced cost school meals,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. “Through our relationships with dedicated nonprofit organizations, this summer, we will further our commitment to help people gain access to healthy foods and develop nutritious eating habits. We are proud to support this work which will reach [more than] a million children and families in more than 1,500 communities.”