Kresge Grant to Fund Healthy Preschool Food Project
Building on previous success with schoolchildren nationwide, a $395,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation will make it possible for the Occidental College Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) to extend healthy food and wellness programs to preschool children.
The new effort will establish pilot programs in El Monte, West Hollywood, South Los Angeles and San Bernardino County that will seek to improve early childhood eating habits.
The Healthy Preschool Food Project is the latest in a series of innovative programs by UEPI that have made it a leader in "farm to school" and healthy school food movements over the past decade. From a handful of programs in the late 1990s to over 2,000 today, farm to school programs across the country promote lifelong healthy eating habits and support small famers by giving them access to the multi-billion-dollar school food services market.
"Childhood obesity trends now extend to children under five years old, thereby creating the danger of a lifetime of medical problems," said Robert Gottlieb, Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban Environmental Studies at Occidental and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute. "We’re grateful that The Kresge Foundation recognizes the value of inculcating healthy eating habits early to help reverse this trend."
The new project will set up pilot programs in preschools and child care programs that serve low-income families and can demonstrate the value of increasing access to fresh produce and nutrition education for children, parents, and childcare providers. Project partners will include El Monte City School District; Magnolia Place Family Center in South Los Angeles, the Pathways Child Care and Referral Center in West Hollywood, and the Head Start Program of San Bernardino County.
"Our ultimate goal is to demonstrate the applicability of early childhood nutrition education and the feasibility of introducing farm-fresh produce into preschool programs and to other communities and child care programs nationally," Gottlieb said.
The Kresge Foundation is a national, private foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations by creating access and opportunity in underserved communities, improving the health of low-income people, supporting artistic expression, assisting in the revitalization of Detroit, and advancing methods for dealing with global climate change.
The grant for the Healthy Preschool Food Project is the second major grant to Occidental from the foundation. In 2003, the college received a $600,000 grant toward the construction of the Hameetman Science Center, which houses the physics and geology departments.
The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College is a community-oriented research and advocacy organization with a mission of creating a more just, livable and democratic region. UEPI serves as the umbrella for a variety of affiliated programs addressing work and industry, food and nutrition, housing, transportation, regional and community development, land use, and urban environmental issues.