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 affecting young children (birth to age five), the Monsanto Fund is supporting Healthy Food Alliance for Early Education — a joint program of the American Heart Assn. and Nemours — with a five-year, $3.9 million pilot program in the St. Louis, Mo., 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 Assn. 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 St. Louis American Heart Assn. “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."
The American Heart Assn. said it is pleased to work with organizations like Nemours, a nonprofit 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 the home, 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,” Al Mitchell, president of the Monsanto Fund, said.
“Monsanto Fund’s support for this program extends beyond the farm as we work with dietitians, nonprofits and others in the food supply chain to increase the availability, access and consumption of a variety of protein sources, fruits and vegetables,” Mitchell said. “Teaming with the American Heart Assn. 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.”