Feeding America reports that more than 50 million Americans are hungry, with one in six adults and more than one in five children not having consistent access to food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that translates into 16.7 million children under the age of 18 in the United States that are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food for a healthy life. The effects of poor or limited access to nutrition can be long-lasting, especially for children, impacting not only their health but their physical and mental development, as well as their ability to perform well in school. Hungry children incur developmental impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and emotional development.

Combining these startling statistics with the potentially drastic effects this would have on our economy’s future workforce and the overall health of our communities, lead us to shift focus from our previous pillar area within Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) of Nutrition Education, to simply Nutrition. While equally important goals, HKHF now prioritizes partners and programs that provide direct access to food, assist in eliminating barriers to receiving food and address food security at multiple levels

More than 20 food banks and other key partners have already joined in the HKHF effort to help eliminate barriers to receiving food and target the needs of the hungry in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. With the help of our partners we estimate more than 28 million pounds of food will be distributed throughout our communities in 2014, impacting more than 433,000 adults and 285,000 children. Additionally, we are working to expanding this reach to our company’s newest health plan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, throughout 2014.

A few of our key partners to promote nutrition education are:

The Greater Chicago Food Depository , facilitates a food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. Food is distributed through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 64 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 134,800 meals every day. Support is provided to the innovative Bring the Family to the Table program, a monthly family event at five Chicago Park District Wellness Centers that provides healthy meals, nutrition demonstrations and physical activities.

We will be partnering with New Mexico Appleseed  over the next three years to support the Ending Hunger and Obesity in New Mexico's Children program. The partnership's goal is to help decrease hunger, obesity and their collective effects on children. New Mexico Appleseed benefitted nearly 100,000 children in 2011 and, through the partnership with HKHF, plans to impact 120,000 children in 2013.

The Central Oklahoma American Indian Health Council Inc. , partners with us to implement the Project POWER: Fitness initiative. The program covers many areas, and nutrition education is a main component of the program. Our partnerships assists in expanding the number of regular family based educational activities, such as structured family visits to a local farmer's market, family cooking classes and family fun nights.

Marathon Kids  learn to live an active and healthy lifestyle by running or walking 26.2 miles over six months, eating healthy food daily, and even learning to grow fruits and veggies! Children are challenged to complete a checklist of healthy eating by checking off their Marathon Kids Fuel Log©. The Fuel Log is a tool to encourage kids to try new fruits and veggies, drink plenty of water, and fuel their bodies with great food and drink choices!