Hunger among our youngest Ohioans is growing and can affect educational achievement, future work productivity, and already-rising health care costs.
To raise local awareness about inadequate child nutrition, Marietta Memorial Hospital (MMH) is collaborating with Peoples Bank and Marietta College to lessen and end hunger in Washington County.
WMOA News spoke with MMH’s Jennifer Offenberger, who says that hunger is a prevalent issue in our community.
“That includes not enough food and not eating the right foods, both of which lead to the body not getting the nutrition it needs,” explains Offenberger. “So we’ve formed this partnership and are developing several initiatives over the years that will focus on ending hunger in our community.”
Offenberger says their first action will be guided by an Athens non-profit group called “Live Healthy Appalachia” who has taught a program called “Food is Elementary” in Athens elementary schools for the past two years.
“Food is Elementary” is a national, evidence-based program developed by the Food Studies Institute to teach children basic nutrition and cooking skills.
“So we’ll be looking to them as a resource to learn how is it working for them and how might we be able to use it here in Washington County.”
Offenberger says it will start as a pilot program in ten Marietta second-grade classrooms. Marietta College students, trained as Food Educators, will assist teachers in implementation.
Peoples Bank CEO and President Chuck Sulerzyski says they’re pleased to take part in the project. “We’ll be giving financial support as well as a great deal of time and energy. We look forward to getting our bank employees involved in both fundraising and working on some of the initiatives,” says Sulerzyski.
The Food is Elementary pilot program begins January 14 and will take place over twelve weeks. Jennifer Offenberger notes that if the pilot is successful, they hope to expand and offer it to classrooms throughout Washington County.