March 9, 2020

Improving Food Access Through Cross-Sector Collaboration

At Healthier Generation, we believe that access to nourishing food is a fundamental right for all children and a necessity for a healthy future. Kids facing food insecurity and hunger are more likely to face academic, social-emotional and long term physical health challenges. 

In February, Healthier Generation teamed up with McDonald’s and The Children’s Hunger Alliance to host a community afterschool event in Columbus, OH to promote more balanced eating and literacy. The event represents a new milestone in our community-based cross-sector work to address food access and nutrition.


A History of Activating Cross-Sector Power  

For nearly 15 years, our cross-sector work has leveraged the power of the corporate sector to expand access to healthier foods and beverages in communities nationwide. We’ve already created system-level changes that have widespread impact within the communities we serve.  

In 2013, Healthier Generation developed an unprecedented commitment with McDonald's to increase their provision and marketing of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and water in 20 major markets. Since this commitment was made, McDonald’s USA has served over 3.4 billion fruit, low-fat dairy, and water items in Happy Meals. In 2018, McDonald’s unveiled an expanded Commitment to Families, including a set of five new Global Happy Meal goals to be achieved by the end of 2022 and began an effort to maximize their impact in local communities.  


Connecting with Community in Columbus, OH 

Our journey to advance cross-sector work in local communities is just beginning, and central to it is a commitment to understanding the existing structures and organizations that support food access, as well as the unique needs and challenges facing each community. In Columbus, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Ohio's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger, emerged as a natural and fitting collaborator. Together with McDonald’s, we’re exploring how to maximize each other’s strengths to increase food access and remove barriers to children’s health in marginalized communities.  

On February 3, we hosted a special out-of-school time event for students and staff at the Columbus State’s ESL Afterschool Communities (ESLAsC) program at Stiles, recognized in 2020 by Children’s Hunger Alliance as their afterschool program of the year. 

The event engaged approximately 40 children in 3 distinct Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) activities, with local elected officials serving as activity facilitators and guest readers. All participants were treated to a nutritious snack–apple slices and Go-GURT® supplied by local McDonald’s operators –and 4 STEM-focused educational books. Children from two additional out-of-school time sites also received these items to supplement their regular program day. 

Here’s what members of our event team had to say about this exciting opportunity: 

"Healthier Generation and McDonald’s have worked together to increase families’ access to fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy, and water items since 2013. By engaging the Children’s Hunger Alliance, we were able to bring that partnership to life in a local community. We are motivated by the initial collaboration among these organizations, and are hopeful that ongoing, deeper engagement can continue to create healthier environments and opportunities for kids in Ohio."  

- Jonathan Wallace, Associate Director, Cross-Sector Engagement, Healthier Generation 


“We appreciated the opportunity to ​collaborate with ​the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and McDonald’s to serve youth apple slices and low-fat Go-GURT® at one of our CACFP sponsored afterschool programs.  Any time we can provide additional nutritious food in addition to the afterschool sponsored meal it is a great way to increase food access and combat food insecurity. Our focus is on making healthy foods accessible to all kids throughout Ohio and we see this partnership as a way to help fulfill our mission.”  

- Shannon Amos, Vice President, Agency Programs, Children's Hunger Alliance 

We love to see our work in action and believe that when we energize public-private partnerships, we can create systemic change for children’s health. The opportunity to engage food and beverage industry leaders with local out-of-school time programs as anchors in their communities can contribute to childhood wellness far beyond a healthy snack and meal. I'm personally excited by Healthier Generation’s commitment to advancing such efforts and look forward to witnessing the long-term impact we can create together in Columbus and other communities.  



Photos courtesy of Children's Hunger Alliance