Farm partnership supports expansion of Kids’ Food Basket mission
Amway’s partnership with Kids’ Food Basket goes back to the organization’s start, when it began giving a few hundred schoolchildren a sack meal they could take home.
Now, 16 years later, Amway is helping the organization undertake a major expansion that will feed thousands more across West Michigan.
“We are really excited to support their mission of supporting children’s nutritional health so they can be their very best, both in and outside of school,” said Michelle Meulendyk, Senior Corporate Citizenship Specialist with Amway Community Relations.
“This partnership was a natural fit for Amway, due to our focus on supporting programs and organizations that provide access to nutrition, nutrition education, and wellness through physical activity.”
Groundbreaking at farm
Meulendyk spoke at a recent groundbreaking celebration for the new Kids’ Food Basket Farm Strengthened by Nutrilite. The 14-acre urban farm offers an opportunity to deliver nourishing food from the soil into Sack Suppers.
Located on one of the last farms in the city of Grand Rapids, the property will also be the site of a two-story facility that will house the organization’s operations.
The 4,000 Amway employees at the company’s nearby headquarters in Ada, Michigan, will be able to continue to volunteer, either packing the meals in the hand-decorated bags or working on the farm.
Additionally, Amway, which operates organic farms around the globe, has been and will continue to share its best agricultural practices with the organization’s staff to grow the healthiest produce — free of chemicals.
“Nutrilite is the world’s top selling vitamin and dietary supplements brand that brings the best of science and nature together,” Meulendyk said. “This is a great opportunity for Amway R&D’s expertise and sustainable farming practices to really come together and partner with Kids’ Food Basket here on their new property.”
The farm also provides an opportunity to infuse educational programming into the organization’s work. So far, kids have been excited to learn how to plant, grow and harvest. One of the perks of working in the garden is eating the food grown there. Over the past summer, the harvest yielded over 11,000 pounds of fresh sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, string beans, tomatillos, and mini bell peppers, which have won some classroom taste tests.
The farm provides a way to connect children to their food, said Bridget Clark Whitney, the Founding CEO of Kids’ Food Basket.
“(Kids are) learning from hands-on experience about the critical importance of good food. Where does it come from? Why is that important? How do we make these lifelong healthy food choices?” Whitney said.
Healthy food mission
The mission of Kids’ Food Basket is to get healthy food into the hands of children each and every weekday throughout the year. Launched in a church basement in 2002, the program began serving 125 kids at three schools and now serves more than 8,000 children across three counties.
The additional food from the farm will help the organization in its goal to provide meals to 15,000 kids per day.
Still, less than 10 percent of the need is currently being met, Whitney said. Kids have a hard time learning when they are hungry. A healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables can change lives, she said.
“The data proves that well-nourished children have less truancy, less sicknesses, less behavioral issues, and increased academic scores.”