Project Produce Aims to Prevent Childhood Obesity by Helping Schools Teach Youngsters to Eat Well

Project Produce Aims to Prevent Childhood Obesity by Helping Schools Teach Youngsters to Eat Well

A new program called Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools, supported by the Walmart Foundation and run by the Chef Ann Foundation, will give 100 schools the chance to invest in teaching about nutrition and healthy eating habits.

Educational institutions know that math, sciences, and social studies are important to a child’s future success. But why aren’t students being taught how to eat well? This is the question that started the project, according to the Chef Ann Foundation (CAF), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving school food programs in the U.S. The foundation will use the grant program to help schools increase students’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and to expand pupils’ food knowledge through lunchroom activities.

“Nutrition education programming is key to children’s healthy eating,” Mara Fleishman, CEO of the Chef Ann Foundation, said in a press release. “And in a nation where childhood obesity and diet-related disease are common realities for many young Americans, this grant opportunity could not come at a more opportune time.”

The foundation believes the greatest impact can be achieved thought changing school food. Its flagship program, The Lunch Box, provides tools, training, and resources to help schools create healthier food environments and contribute to redefine lunchrooms. So far, CAF has worked with 5,947 schools, reaching over almost 2.5 million children, through that program.

Estimates indicate that one in three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and physicians are warning that these children will die at much younger ages than their parents, strictly due to diet-related conditions.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Children are eating more fruit, but fruit and vegetable intake still too low,” 60 percent of children between 2007–10 didn’t eat enough fruit to meet government-recommended daily standards, and an astonishing 93 percent didn’t eat enough vegetables.

In addition, of the 30 million children who eat their lunch at school every day, 71.5 percent live in disadvantaged households. Eating healthy at school can significantly impact these children’s lives, and nutrition education can help them learn to enjoy eating nutritious foods.

“Grants like this really help support doing something different, and forced us to think outside the box. Project Produce gave us the opportunity to have meaningful food experiences with kids and allowed food service to become an extension to education,” said Shelly Allen, food service director at St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, Colorado.

Project Produce is a grant program designed to create experimental nutrition education when and where children make their food choices: in cafeterias and lunchrooms. Launched in 2014 by CAF and Healthy Skoop, the $2,500 one-year grants support food expenses at schools that incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their nutritional programs. The program has so far helped 41 schools purchase fresh produce for nutrition education programs, helping 21,399 students learn to not only eat their fruits and vegetables, but also to enjoy and appreciate them.

For more information about Project Produce, or to submit an application, please visit this webpage.

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