Boy holding large bunch of fresh carrots up over his face outdoors at a farm

Blue Cross Partnership with Kids’ Food Basket Connects Children to Fresh Food

A grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is helping a growing West Michigan nonprofit, Kids’ Food Basket, fulfill its mission of nourishing children and empowering them to make healthy choices.

Kids’ Food Basket may be best known for its Sack Supper program, in which dinner meals are distributed to 8,800 children at school at the end of every school day and during summer programs. The program serves children who are nutritionally at risk by providing them access to well-balanced meals so they can focus on performing their best and not on where their next meal will come from.

Children may often find baby carrots in their Sack Suppers.

But do those children know that those carrots are grown in the ground – and not on trees? Do they know there are more sizes, shapes and colors of carrot than just the two-inch, perfectly orange baby carrots in the package from the store?

The $50,000 Blue Cross grant seeks to help Kids’ Food Basket in its goal to connect children to the true roots of their food by funding nutritional programming on the nonprofit’s new 10-acre urban farm in Grand Rapids.

“Through the partnership and collaboration with champions like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we create opportunity to provide access to healthy, nourishing food for all of our children. Blue Cross knows that when children are well-nourished, they have the opportunity to succeed in school and life,” said Kids’ Food Basket CEO Bridget Clark Whitney. “Our partnership with Blue Cross is a tremendous example of how cross-sector partnerships can enhance the health of a community. With strong kids, we have a strong West Michigan. We are eternally grateful for the leadership of this generous donation that will fuel our future to reach more children.”

Kids’ Food Basket recently celebrated the grand opening of its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters facility at the farm in early October. The farm includes a teaching garden, as well as a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse and a 2,000-square-foot teaching barn that are both under construction.

The farm will serve as a place to both grow food for distribution in the Sack Supper program and to engage children and families in the process. Programs at the farm – including those that Blue Cross is supporting – aim to include children in the process of growing food and to teach them how to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables and integrate them into daily meals.

Both the barn and the greenhouse are expected to be complete in spring 2020. Kids’ Food Basket staff are expecting to greatly expand their nutritional farm-to-table programming during the 2020 growing season as a result. The nonprofit also has a partnership with Amway, which operates certified organic farms through its Nutrilite brand. Amway will be lending its farming expertise to help Kids’ Food Basket grow chemical-free, sustainable produce.

Recently on a visit to the Kids’ Food Basket farm, a young boy was munching on a baby bell pepper and picking out its seeds. But instead of casting the seeds aside, he put them in his pocket – because he wanted to be able to grow the pepper at home himself.

It’s that kind of full-circle moment that Kids’ Food Basket is striving to create for thousands of West Michigan children.

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Photo credit: Ulza

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