June 20, 2013 – Today, the Walmart Foundation announced $14 million in grants to provide more than 1.7 million children and families with free meals and nutrition education programs. The grants will expand access to meals for children outside of school this summer and throughout the year, while also teaching families how to develop healthy, low-cost eating habits. Five nonprofit organizations – Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Alliance), Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families, Texas Hunger Initiative (THI), and YMCA of the USA (The Y) – will use the grants to fund programs that serve families in more than 450 communities across the nation.
According to a new FRAC report, while 19.6 million low-income children rely on the U.S. Department of Agriculture lunch programs during the school year, only 1 in 7 of these children participates in Summer Nutrition Programs. In fact, while summer meal program participation declined from 2008 to 2012, the need for these programs grew, as suggested by an increase in school lunch participation among low-income children during the same time. Limited access to healthy meals leaves children vulnerable, with negative impacts to their health and development. During the summer, this issue is compounded by reduced access to educational opportunities that contribute to learning loss. “At Walmart, we recognize that many children rely on the meals provided at school to sustain an adequate nutrition level, and often go without after class ends and during summer vacation. That’s why we’re committed to supporting organizations that work to ensure children have access to meals all year long and are also teaching families about eating healthy,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. “Through Walmart’s own efforts and by working with dedicated nonprofit partners to make healthy foods more accessible and affordable, we strive to help families live better, healthier lives.” To help raise awareness about the importance of access to meals and nutrition education programs throughout the year, the Walmart Foundation has joined forces with Dr. Michele Borba, recognized children’s health and development expert and award-winning author of 22 parenting and educational books, including Parents Do Make a Difference. Dr. Borba offers valuable insight and simple tips that every family can follow to enjoy a healthy summer. “Parents and caregivers can and should take an active role in helping children avoid the ‘summer-slide,’” said Dr. Borba. “Look for programs in your neighborhood that will help your children access regular meals and stay active throughout their school break. These programs will not only benefit your children’s health during the summer, they will have a lasting impact on their future development.”