While U.S. food security improved last year, approximately 3 million American households were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To address malnutrition and food insecurity impacting young children (birth to age 5), the Monsanto Fund (the philanthropic division of Monsanto No. 43 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity) is supporting Healthy Food Alliance for Early Education, a joint program of the American Heart Association and Nemours, with a five-year, $3.9 million pilot program in the St. Louis region.
Healthy Way to Grow, an initiative started in 2013 to improve nutrition by addressing childhood obesity, is expanding to include more than 120 early care centers and education programs in the St. Louis region. As a new component of the program, Healthy Food Alliance for Early Education will assess challenges related to "food deserts" and help parents identify nutritious food within their communities, as well as provide tools and resources to support healthy food environments at home.
"The American Heart Association is committed to helping all Americans lead heart-healthy lives and recognizes that helping children develop healthy habits today can lead to a healthier America in the future," said Dr. Michael Lim, Board President of the American Heart Association, St. Louis. "By working with early care centers throughout St. Louis, Healthy Food Alliance for Early Education will ensure healthy practices are implemented in these centers every day, with a special focus on proper nutrition. AHA is pleased to work with organizations like Nemours, a non-profit children's health system, and Monsanto Fund to make a positive impact on children in St. Louis."
By increasing access to healthy food and promoting healthy eating in both early care centers and home environments, the pilot program aims to improve the nutritional health of more than 18,000 children. If successful, the findings could be replicated beyond St. Louis.
"Malnutrition impacts children and families around the world, whether through under nutrition, nutritional deficiencies or the growing global problem of obesity. By providing increased access to healthy foods during those important first years of life, Healthy Food Alliance for Early Education addresses the double burden of malnutrition and lays the foundation for children to carry healthy eating habits into adulthood," said Al Mitchell, President, Monsanto Fund.
"Monsanto Fund's support for this program extends beyond the farm as we work with dietitians, non-profits and others in the food supply chain to increase the availability, access and consumption of a variety of protein sources, fruits and vegetables," said Mitchell. "Teaming with the American Heart Association will help us better understand how to encourage healthy diets among consumers, identify obstacles to healthy eating and provide assistance to children and families who need help."
For more information about the program, including resources for early childhood programs, parents and families, visit www.healthywaytogrow.org.