BCM Sets the Table
Fresh Food Factor Nourishes Kids From Inside Out
Baptist Community Ministries remains committed to helping local children grow healthier and succeed in school.
A good starting place to help reach these goals is feeding kids healthier diets.
Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans, local affiliate of a national nonprofit human services organization, agrees. In 2013, Volunteers of America started its Fresh Food Factor program to turn the tables on highly processed school lunches full of empty calories. Supported by a BCM health transom grant, Fresh Food Factor recognizes the importance of good nutrition to a child’s energy, health and optimum school performance, especially for youngsters who may not get a balanced diet at home.
“We first began the Fresh Food Factor with a simple but intriguing question. What might happen if we would serve children in Greater New Orleans a fresh and healthy meal each school day?,” explains James LeBlanc, President/CEO, Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans.
“This year, we will serve 1.4 million healthy meals and snacks to area school children. We believe our meals will have a profound impact on the health of these children and overall community health for years to come.”
As an alternative to commercial food suppliers, Fresh Food Factor follows a holistic service model that focuses first on students. Meals are packed with nutritious fruits and vegetables–and prepared daily at Volunteers of America’s new 8,000 sq. ft. commercial kitchen in a renovated Tchoupitoulas Street building. Though Fresh Food Factor steers clear of the frozen pizza and salty fries that may dominate many school lunches, it serves foods that appeal to young palates.
Feeding children healthy diets supports BCM’s strategies to uplift youth in our region. Fresh Food Factor shares goals with YouthShift, the comprehensive initiative funded by BCM to transform child and youth services in the region. In fact, YouthShift’s first priority area is child health and well-being. Better nutrition can help address problems of the nearly 44 percent of New Orleans children under 18 living in poverty. (Statistics from The New Orleans Youth Index 2015.)
“Volunteers of America’s continued commitment to the people of this region is clearly exhibited through the Fresh Food Factor. Their efforts provide the nutritious fuel kids need in order to learn and to lead healthy lifestyles,” explains Christy Ross, BCM Program Director for Health Grants.
Fresh Food Factor serves youth on several levels. First, it gives them the balanced diet they need to stay energized in school. It also teaches kids that a healthy lifestyle begins with good eating habits, and that nutritious food can taste good. And it looks ahead to help prevent obesity, diabetes and other health problems that occur at high rates in our region.
Along the way, Fresh Food Factor may also instill a love of fresh pineapple or spinach salad in a child who never tasted these foods before. In just a couple of years, Fresh Food Factor has steadily increased the numbers of schools and meals served. Volunteers of America hopes to cook up more excitement about this program and bring more fresh food to local youth.