New initiative works to promote, improve nutrition

by Eric Schroeder
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 Healthy Grow
The Healthy Food Alliance for Early Education is part of Healthy Way to Grow, an initiative started in 2013 to improve nutrition by addressing childhood obesity. 
 

ST. LOUIS — The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Co., is supporting the 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.

The Healthy Food Alliance for Early Education is part of Healthy Way to Grow, an initiative started in 2013 to improve nutrition by addressing childhood obesity. The initiative is expanding to include more than 120 early care centers and education programs in the St. Louis region, and 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.

Michael Lim, board president of the American Heart Association, St. Louis. 

“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 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.”

The pilot program has set a goal of improving the nutritional health of more than 18,000 children, with plans to expand beyond St. Louis if successful.

 Food Insecurity
Prevalence of food insecurity and very low food security in 2015 is down from 2014. 
 

Earlier this year, the US Dept. of Agriculture released a study showing the estimated percentage of US households that were food insecure in 2015 declined significantly to 12.7 percent from 14 percent in 2014. The 2015 percentage continued a downward trend from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011, but still was above the pre-recessionary level of 11.1 percent in 2007.

Food insecurity refers to American households whose access to food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. In 2015, 15.8 million households were food insecure and had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all family members, according to the USDA.

Al Mitchell
Al Mitchell, president of Monsanto Fund 

“Malnutrition impacts children and families around the world, whether through under nutrition, nutritional deficiencies or the growing global problem of obesity,” said Al Mitchell, president of Monsanto Fund. “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.

“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. 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

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