Whole Kids, Healthy Futures
There’s no better way to get kids interested in something than hands-on activities. When that activity happens to be growing healthy food and learning how to prepare it, the lessons learned can last a lifetime.
With the problem of childhood obesity continuing in our country, Whole Kids Foundation was started in 2011 to help instill healthy habits and alleviate this problem. The foundation takes aim at the epidemic by providing grants to help schools install salad bars, offer nutritional education for teachers, and most importantly, implement school gardens.
With Whole Kids Foundation granting more than $8.5 million in school gardens to date, Unilever is proud to be a sponsor of this initiative as it helps grow healthier communities, starting with the youngest members.
How Does It Work?
The School Garden Program allots $2,000 grants to K-12 schools selected via a thorough application process. With this, schools can create functional, educational gardens right on their grounds.
To win a grant, schools must complete a detailed blueprint for the success. They are evaluated on a number of areas: children’s engagement and integration into the curriculum, leadership, sustainability plan, and integration into the community.
Grants are awarded with geographical diversity in mind for maximum impact, and span every state in the county. They also reach students of all different economic backgrounds. Out of all of the students gaining access to these gardens, 60% receive free or reduced lunch.
Once the gardens are created, they become a valuable resource for connecting students to where their food comes from, instilling in them valuable lessons of healthy eating. Students can also receive hands-on experience planting, cultivating, composting, and cooking.
Has It Succeeded?
To date, Whole Kids Foundation has supported 4,254 school gardens, reaching students across the country with this “edible education” program. With the vast majority of the gardens succeeding and more than 90% of schools updating the foundation on their progress, the impact can be seen from Miami to Chicago.
One school in Miami-Dade County saw their first graders become more open to trying healthier foods than even older students after participating in the program. They also saw the demand for salad double in their cafeteria, which served the produce harvested right from the school garden.
A school is limited to receiving only one grant, but even still the program receives 1,300 to 1,500 applications every year, showing sustained interest in edible education.
What does this actually mean for students at these schools? For one, school gardens give them a break from their desks and instead get them outside for part of their education. Scientific studies have shown that school gardens increase a student’s likelihood to try vegetables, and can also impact their preference for vegetables over unhealthy snacks and, ultimately, the amount of fresh vegetables they eat. That can lead to a lifetime of healthier habits that goes far beyond their school years.
That’s exactly the cycle of healthy eating and education Unilever aims to support and the future we want to build with our partners.