MADERA — Valley Children’s Healthcare and Central California Food Bank announced today a multi-year agreement to help address a major issue facing children in our communities: lack of access to healthy and nutritious food. Through a commitment of $150,000 from Valley Children’s, this three-year partnership will focus on supporting programs that make healthy food directly accessible to children in need and their families.
“The billboard along Highway 99 reminds us that one out of four Valley kids don’t get enough to eat, which cannot simply be something we drive by or, as a community, something we can accept,” says Lynne Ashbeck, Valley Children’s chief community impact officer. “Valley Children’s has made an intentional and significant commitment to move the needle on childhood hunger for kids throughout our 13-county region and beyond, and this partnership will be an important step in that work.”
The partnership will initially include support for a food pantry at West Fresno Elementary School, where students and parents can receive food to take home each month. Additionally, Valley Children’s Home Care teams will provide one food box per month to qualifying families with medically complex children who are patients of our program.
“The chance to identify families in need, provide food and measure the impact of this added resource on the family’s well-being is important to our commitment to keeping kids well where they live, learn and play,” says Dr. Carmela Sosa, Valley Children’s medical director of primary care and the Guilds Center for Community Health. “Families with medically complex children have so much to attend to, and we are confident that receiving nutritious food right to their homes will make a big impact on for their health.”
A portion of Valley Children’s financial commitment will also support the First Fruits Market, which is under development in the City Center project at Blackstone and Dakota avenues in Fresno. First Fruits Market will be available to low-income families with children to access nutritious food, free of charge, in a setting much like any neighborhood grocery story. This market is expected to open in early 2023.
“We are honored and thankful for this funding from Valley Children’s,” says Kym Dildine, co-CEO of Central California Food Bank. “With a shared vision of improving the health of children in Central California, we are working together to address the links between food insecurity and health. Together, we are breaking down food access barriers by providing food for the whole family – whether it be through school, home health nurses or a grocery store experience at First Fruits Market”.
Close to one in four children in the Central Valley are food insecure, meaning that they are lacking consistent access to enough food for a healthy and active lifestyle. Many factors contribute to food insecurity, including lack of money to buy food, access to grocery stores and transportation.
“Valley Children’s is committed to a long-term strategy to stop childhood hunger,” adds Ashbeck. “We believe in a community where the number of our kids who go to bed hungry is zero, and that every child has access to the food they need to grow up healthy, succeed in school and contribute to their own families, neighborhoods and communities.”
Valley Children’s work with Central California Food Bank will utilize evaluation measures, including the Feeding America Client Survey, to assess the success of its support in improving access to healthy foods for children and families most in need and in improving overall child and family wellness.
“It is our hope that through these strategic partnerships, we can provide support to the most high-need neighborhoods with greater access to the foods they need to thrive, like fresh produce and heart-healthy, shelf-stable items. This results in healthier, happier children and families. Now, kids can spend time just being kids, and not spend time worrying about their next meal,” says Natalie Caples, co-CEO of Central California Food Bank. “Together, we can provide children in our community with the holistic care they need to be strong, healthy leaders of tomorrow.”