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Educational food kiosk expands options in Planada

 

A new food kiosk located at Cesar E. Chavez Middle School in Planada is providing families with an assortment of healthy staple food items, both shelf-stable and refrigerated, priced to meet the needs of a limited budget.

Families can take advantage of the “Good Stuff Kiosk” as children are picked up from after-school programs. The interactive kiosk will also help educate children on food preparation and nutrition, as well as provide recipe handouts that can be used with the food items.

The kiosk is part of the Dole Sunshine for All Cities program — funded by the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation and Dole Packaged Foods — and in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Merced and a Partnership for a Healthier America.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Dole Sunshine for All Cities to bring this program to our families,” said See Lee, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County, during an opening event on Sept. 13. “Having spent many years working with disenfranchised youth in the area, I’ve seen firsthand how a lack of access to affordable, healthy food options can impact the wellbeing in the short and long term. I’m excited to about the public-private partnerships in this joint effort and the positive effect the program will have on our club and beyond.”

While the San Joaquin Valley is responsible for producing much of the state’s agricultural bounty, officials say Merced County’s child “food insecurity” rate is more than 27 percent  – meaning more than 1 in 4 children in the area are experiencing hunger.

The USDA defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. The causes of food insecurity are considered complex. They include poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and lack of access to healthcare, among others.

Placing Good Stuff Kiosks at community hubs like after-school programs run by the Boys & Girls Clubs, in addition to initiatives like the Dole Kids Cooking Camp, is expected to help kids navigate the challenges of food insecurity and nutrition education, with classes covering basic cooking skills, healthy recipe preparation, smart grocery shopping and meal planning tips.

“Everyone has the right to good food that helps them thrive and lead healthy lives,” said Jason Wilson, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Partnership for a Healthier America. “We call this Good Food for All and it’s at the core of what we do. This is just the beginning of a larger initiative to reach millions of children every day and will help catalyze change towards good food and healthier communities. We look forward to seeing the program’s continued and lasting impact on communities like Merced, Baltimore and Jackson.”

The first four Good Food Kiosks were introduced in Jackson, MS in July 2023 and they have the potential to reach 4,800 people each day and provide access to healthy food. By 2028, the Good Stuff Kiosk program plans to grow to include more than 1,000 community hubs across the United States, with the potential to reach more than 3 million families each day.

In addition to providing healthy, affordable food, the program will also provide vital workforce development training for Planada students thanks to a $10,000 grant from Bank of America. The grant will provide stipends for students who will staff the kiosk, teaching them money management and supply chain skills.

To learn more about the Dole Sunshine For All Cities Program and its impact in Merced and beyond, visit dolesunshine.com.

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