Leveraging the Link Between Good Food and Good Health

Apple Picking
July 7, 2015
by Theresa Forsman

Imagine a third grader faced with two challenges: Not being able to focus on what the teacher is saying because her stomach is growling and not being able to follow the lesson because her undiagnosed nearsightedness makes everything, including the blackboard, blurry.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey - a Feeding America member - has long been able to help fill young children’s stomachs and now, thanks to the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Initiative, we can help clear up blurry vision, too. ChildSight, one of our community partners in this initiative, is providing vision screenings to hundreds of Newark children. Nearsighted children get a free pair of glasses that greatly improves their view of the blackboard—and the rest of their world.

“Seeing the health screenings is one of the most rewarding parts of Healthy Cities,” said Lindsey Kennedy, the FoodBank’s manager of child nutrition programs who oversees all components of our Healthy Cities initiative in Newark.

The programs provides 500 to 700 area children with:

  • Nutritious meals for them and their household
  • Regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables for them and their household
  • Hands-on nutrition education
  • Opportunities for regular physical activity
  • Basic health screenings
  • Household access to nutritious food and  nutrition information, including “foods to encourage” and recipes for those foods

During dental screenings with community partner KinderSmile, we find that some children have never visited the dentist. During nutrition education, we learn that some children have never tasted a strawberry or a green bean. During the children’s field trips to our non-profit farming partner, America’s Grow-A-Row, we find that some children had no idea that apples grow on trees.

The Healthy Cities initiative, launched by Morgan Stanley in 2014, is a good fit for two of our FoodBank’s key priorities: to increase our collaborations with other organizations serving the low income people and to reinforce the link between good food and good health. In New Jersey, diabetes is twice as prevalent in households with incomes under $25,000 as it is in middle-class households. We know that giving food to a child and their family solves an immediate problem, but giving the child nutrition education, physical activity and health check-ups along with that food helps lay the foundation for longer lasting solutions.

Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities added new components to our programming, including health screenings and more community partnerships, and is expanding and strengthening programming already in place, such as our Fresh Produce Initiative with America’s Grow-A-Row and our Pediatric Pantry Program, which is operated in cooperation with Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Opening up a child’s world—by giving her that first pair of glasses, that first strawberry, a first trip to a vegetable farm—is one of the most creative ways that the Community FoodBank of New Jersey fights hunger and poverty. We are gratified that Morgan Stanley, through the Healthy Cities initiative, has helped us break new ground in providing food, help and hope to some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

*Theresa Forsman is the director of foundation and corporate relations at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

Tags: Innovative Solutions to Hunger , Food Bank Network , New Jersey , Community Food Bank of New Jersey

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