Today, the Walmart Foundation announced a $2.5 million grant to Share Our Strength to help families nationwide gain valuable hands-on shopping, cooking and nutrition education so they can eat healthy on a budget. The grant will provide 107,500 Americans with access to Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters program, which has a 20-year history of helping low-income families develop and maintain healthier eating habits. The initiative is part of Walmart's and the Walmart Foundation's $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment through 2015 to help fight hunger in America, and Walmart's 2011 initiative to provide customers with healthier and more affordable food choices every day.
Today, 46.5 million Americans live in poverty according to U.S. Census data. For many families who struggle to make ends meet, there is a clear gap between the desire to eat healthy and the ability to consistently prepare nutritious meals for their families. Share Our Strength's "It's Dinnertime" report reveals that 85 percent of low-income families believe eating healthy is important, yet only half are able to prepare nutritious meals on a regular basis. The report also indicates the primary barrier is the perceived high cost of healthy foods. These challenges are especially detrimental to children, as poor nutrition can lead to behavioral, emotional and academic problems,and impair their overall development.[iii] Additionally, this November many families who participate in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will see their benefits, which help pay for food, reduced. Having less money to spend on food each month will provide added challenges to families that participate in SNAP, and programs like Cooking Matters will help ensure that those impacted by the reductions have an increased understanding of how to identify healthy food and are able to buy it on a shrinking budget.
"Many families in America haven't been given the opportunity to learn about how to eat healthy at home. Programs like Cooking Matters give families the tools necessary to maximize their resources, shop smart on a budget and develop better eating habits," said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. "Today we recognize 'National Food Day' because we believe that healthy eating can change lives. At Walmart, we take this to heart every day by making nutritious foods accessible and affordable for families across the country; and alongside partners like Share Our Strength we can help even more people eat healthier and live better."
Over the next year, the grant will help provide shoppers with access to Cooking Matters at the Store shopping tours at Walmart stores and other grocers. These interactive sessions with trained guides are designed to teach four main skills: buying fruits and vegetables on a budget, comparing unit prices, reading food labels and identifying whole grain foods. In addition, the grant will support six-week Cooking Matters courses that introduce cooking, food budgeting and nutrition concepts proven to increase healthy eating. Following the completion of the six-week course, Share Our Strength found that 80 percent of adults who graduate report improved food budgeting practices, while 78 percent of adult and teen graduates report an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.
"The Walmart Foundation has supported Share Our Strength programs since 2010, and thanks to their continued support we'll be able to arm more families with the food and nutrition skills needed to make a lasting impact to their overall health," said Billy Shore, founder and CEO, Share Our Strength. "Cooking Matters has a long-standing history of equipping individuals and families with skills to help maximize their food budget and make healthier food choices. The program is part of our No Kid Hungry campaign, which is working to end childhood hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day."
Through the grant, Cooking Matters at the Store tours will be available nationwide and Cooking Matters six-week courses will continue to be offered in the following states: Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Michigan,Minnesota, Louisiana, New York, California, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, Missouri and the District of Columbia.