Founded by Whole Foods Market in 2011, Whole Kids Foundation is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing children (and adults) with information, access, opportunities and experiences that will help them lead healthier lives. They truly live their mission statement which reads, “We support schools and inspire families to improve children’s nutrition and wellness.” After speaking with Jane Johnson, Communications Program Leader of Whole Kids Foundation, we can firmly attest that they go above-and-beyond all expectations in order to help their community.
Whole Kids Foundation was formed through the enthusiasm of Whole Foods Market team members. Whole Foods has always been dedicated to philanthropic causes and in 2010 they focused their yearly fundraising efforts on bringing salad bars to schools in the US. Their original goal was to raise enough money to install ten salad bars total but the project was so popular that they ended up raising way more money than they had anticipated. This enthusiasm inspired the creation of the Whole Kids Foundation and within one year the organization was up and running. Thanks to the generous financial backing of Whole Foods Market, 100 percent of the donations that WKF receives are funneled directly into their charitable programs. The passion and drive of this organization was summed up very simply by Jane Johnson who states “we know that what we do works.”
After its formation, WKF quickly began implementing new programs in order to fulfill their goal of helping individuals build lifelong, healthy habits. They continued their efforts to facilitate the installation of salad bars in schools, began a Garden Grant Program and very recently added a Healthy Teachers Program. The Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools grant program provides schools with all of the necessary materials to add a salad bar to their cafeteria along with guidance on how to monitor and best stock it. This program cuts down on food waste, saves schools money and allows student to make healthier dietary choices. The Garden Grant Program rewards 2,000 dollars to its recipients so that they can begin a school garden or enhance an existing garden. The Healthy Teachers Program set out to provide face-to-face training and a plethora of resources to help teachers become healthy and happy role models for children. These programs have reached thousands of teachers, students and families so far and Whole Kids is dedicated to expanding their reach and improving many more lives in years to come.
In addition to their three main programs, Whole Kids offers a wide range of online resources and activities that includes an online curriculum on health eating and a kid’s book club. These downloadable materials are designed to help start health-conscious conversations in the household by utilizing activities, recipes, questions and hands-on projects. Not only is this an enjoyable way to teach kids about nutrition and environmentalism, but it inspires families to spend more time together. The Whole Kids Foundation hopes that teachers will bring these holistic activities into the classroom and that parents will bring them into the home in order to empower students to make healthy choices.
Jane Johnson and the Whole Kids Team are looking forward to implementing some exciting new programs in the near future. The next mission on the agenda is the Honey Bee Grant Program which aims to allow schools to host their very own bee hive with the assistance of a professional beekeeper. Students will have an active role in the production of natural honey through this exciting, educational opportunity. The staff at Whole Kids is also brainstorming in order to create a new program that will bring a wider variety of cooking tools and materials to school cafeterias in order to stimulate the production of healthy and fresh foods for students. WKF is working to create a kids club within Whole Foods Market as well. Keep your eyes open for a new Whole Kids Club coming to a Whole Foods Market near you!
Jane Johnson explains that the greatest part of being on the Whole Kids staff is seeing the results of their work firsthand. She fondly recalls watching a young child excitedly digging up a radish in a school garden and immediately biting into it “without even stopping to dust it off” and expresses the joy that she feels when she hears students discussing the benefits of healthy foods. Johnson explains that being able to reach kids in a “deep, purposeful and holistic” manner and hearing about how “they believe in healthy food” is the biggest reward of the job. Hearing the passion and emotion well up in Jane Johnson’s voice as she discussed her grant recipients and the different programs she has supervised exemplified just how much they believe in the work that they do. The phenomenal results of WKF programs have firmly established that, as Johnson puts it, “when you give kids healthy choices, they make healthy choices!”