A Foundation for Whole Kids

Improving children’s nutrition may be the reason why the Whole Kids Foundation has helped to fund more than 900 school gardens and 1,500 salad bars throughout the United States and Canada since Whole Foods Market launched the charitable entity in July of 2011. However, local beneficiaries say that what has grown out of these projects has been more than just food.

“They are really investing in the community,” says Natalie Seeboth, development manager for the Ann Richards School Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps to fund the Austin Independent School District’s Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.

“We are just really grateful that they are investing in our students because it is the best way to help teach others.”

Last year, the all-girl public school received a $2,000 school-garden grant to help install five raised-bed vegetable gardens, which are being used for everything from studying plant adaptation and photosynthesis to learning about the effectiveness of organically made pesticides. Plus, the girls have tried new foods. “They grew kale from seeds, and once it was fully grown they brought it into the school and were taught how to cook it,” Seeboth explains. “They then went home and cooked a kale dish for their parents that night. We got some great feedback from their parents, who said, I didn’t even know my child knew what kale was.

Travis High School culinary arts instructor Rob McDonald says his $2,000 grant is being used to help create an outdoor learning environment where his students—and the community at large—can learn to compost, grow food and then use what’s grown to create nutritious recipes. “We want to promote a basic understanding of how to grow food healthily, and how to make healthy decisions when going out to purchase food, whether it be at a farmers market, a grocery store, a restaurant or maybe even a farm directly.”

This spring, the foundation is set to provide an additional 900 schools with salad bars and garden grants using $2.27 million that was raised in September from Whole Foods Market’s in-store donations. Nona Evans, the foundation’s executive director and president, says the reason the foundation chose school gardens for one of their grant programs is because they are an effective and easily implementable way to promote better nutrition for children while also providing opportunities for education, physical movement and more. “It really helps when kids have a connection to the roots of their food,” Evans says. “There’s just something magical that happens for kids when they see that a seed with dirt and water added turns into food. They are curious, excited and willing to try new things that they would never have otherwise tried.”—Nicole Lessin