GRAND RAPIDS, Mi. — Kids Food Basket is celebrating 20 years of giving families access to healthy food across west Michigan. It started as a small, grassroots movement - sending 125 students home from school with a healthy sack supper, every day. Today they feed more than 9000 students across west Michigan daily. But more than filling their bellies, this organization has made it a point to feed their brains, by teaching them where their food comes from.
The organization is celebrating their birthday with Go Orange Day - an event to celebrate how far they've come and look toward the future of the organization. As Kids Food Basket has grown over the years, so has their reach and their mission. Today education is a huge part of what they do, regularly taking their lessons into the classroom. Young students at Cardinal Elementary in Muskegon are starting a very hands-on experiment through the Kids Food Basket Ground Up Learning Lab. They are working on a germination project where they learn what happens to a seed when it gets planted, and how it becomes a vegetable. They are so engaged in this project, lessons that they can take with them to the dinner table and beyond.
"Our Learn program is all about getting kids connected to their food so that they can understand the origins of their food and when they can better understand where their foods comes from and why it's important for their body to eat healthy, nourishing food they're more empowered to make those healthy habits that last a lifetime.” President and founding CEO Bridget Clark Whitney says the learn program is one of the organization's 5 areas of strategic focus, because Kids Food Basket wants to go beyond just providing food to those who need it.
The organization asked the question, "Where can we really move the needle on an issue like food inequity, on an issue like food insecurity? What we found were the programs that were most effective are the ones that were combining healthy, nourishing food access, and consistent access to healthy food with education. Making sure that each and every day kids have access to healthy food and understand where their food comes from and why cherry tomatoes are good for their heart that combination, access and education is really where we make a huge impact.”
Every one of the nearly 60 schools across Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa and Allegan counties that receives sack suppers also has access to these lessons - and the kids are eating them up. Clark Whitney says the proof is there. "We hear stories from parents where their kids are coming home and asking them to buy cherry tomatoes because they've learned to chop up those cherry tomatoes and make salsa. We hear stories from teachers who are getting the kids more connected to stem curriculum because they understand where their food is coming from and the science behind that and how we are all connected to both our earth and our food.” The learning lab is available to anyone via the Kids Food Basket website: https://kidsfoodbasket.org/learn/ - there are several lessons available to parents, teachers and caregivers.