On a gray morning between fields of soybeans and cotton, a group of Duplin County community members gathered to celebrate and discuss children’s nutrition. The day began with remarks from First Lady Kristin Cooper, Dr. Robert Waterhouse, United Health Group Medical Director, Nona Evans, Executive Director of Whole Kids Foundation and North Duplin Principal Brock Ahrens. There was resounding agreement that hungry kids cannot learn. [link to their social or twitter].

Each organization will receive a $2,000 grant to build or expand an existing vegetable garden and provide educational resources about agriculture, caring for the environment and maintaining healthy lifestyles. The grants stem from an initiative by United Health Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation to address hunger and support nutrition education.

“Nourishing minds and bodies is critical to helping children succeed in school,” said First Lady Cooper. “Research shows that eating a healthy school breakfast and lunch improves student attendance, discipline and academic performance.”

Studies show school gardening, combined with a healthy lunch program or nutrition education, encourages healthier food choices, and children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they have grown themselves.

“These schools and YMCAs are creating a positive environment where young people can make healthy choices that will sustain them for a lifetime,” said United Healthcare of North Carolina CEO Anita Bachmann. “On behalf of United Health Foundation, we are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this initiative to give students the tools they need to succeed and become healthy, productive adults.”