Part of the chain’s new Strengthening Cities initiative, the funding is part of a larger $10 million, two-year commitment focused on Fresno and five other cities in supporting urban agriculture programs, community farms, and food distribution.
“We’re as eager to listen and learn from our Fresno partners as we are to support them,” said Matt DeCamara, executive director of Rite Aid Healthy Futures. “Together, we can make positive change one city, one neighborhood, one person, one action at a time. We can all be the human spark that drives real progress and uplifts our neighborhoods.”
Funding Will be Split in Two
Fresno Metro Ministry will get the largest chunk — $1.82 million — while FCHIP, a leading multi-sector network addressing health outcomes and inequities in Fresno County, will get $180,000.
The goal of the grants: broaden food access, advance food sovereignty, address food apartheid and ultimately improve health outcomes for children and their families.
These programs will include community gardens, urban farms, school partnerships, hunger-relief efforts, and helping students deal with the trauma of food insecurity.
Fresno Metro Ministry Will Focus on Food Equity and Recovery
Fresno Metro Ministry says it will support several youth-centered programs under the Food to Share project, including enrolling more than 100 students into its Metro Community Garden and Urban Farm after-school and summer gardening and farming programs.
“This is the beginning of an inclusive movement where children and youth will help lead the Fresno community toward a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable local food system.” — Keith Bergthold, executive director of Fresno Metro Ministry
Nearly 250 kids and teens will learn how to shop, cook, eat and enjoy healthier nutritional foods on a limited family budget through Fresno Metro Ministry’s Cooking Matters program.
The funding will also support the Fresno Metro Ministry’s food stewardship, waste prevention and food recovery programs, the development of the Fresno Food Policy Council, and six community organizations supporting students in targeted neighborhoods.
“This is the beginning of an inclusive movement where children and youth will help lead the Fresno community toward a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable local food system,” said Keith Bergthold, executive director of Fresno Metro Ministry.
“Not only are we developing a replicable model that other school communities and cities can scale, but hundreds of young, motivated leaders will emerge from our programs with the mindfulness, team-building skills, and self-awareness it takes to create truly resilient neighborhoods.”
Program Efforts Aim at Easing Youth Trauma
While Fresno Metro Ministry is focused on food efforts, FCHIP will help support youth leadership and education about food insecurity. It will also support service providers with training to be better equipped to mentor and guide youth at risk for toxic stress.
Artie Padilla, a member of the FCHIP leadership team, says toxic stress can have damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health spanning a lifetime.
“By intentionally teaching service providers how to recognize and mitigate the cumulative toll of toxic stress, we can help them develop the positive, nurturing relationships needed to improve children’s health and well-being,” said Padilla.
Food Inequality and Access in Fresno
According to the FCHIPs Healthy Fresno Community Dashboard, nearly 30% of Black families and 25% of Latino families live below the poverty line, compared to 7.6% of white families.
Ironically, while Fresno County is the country’s No. 1 agricultural producer, there are five times as many fast-food restaurants and convenience stores than supermarkets, and transportation limitations keep thousands of Fresno residents from affordable healthy foods.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies 93 census tracts where county residents live more than half a mile (city) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest grocery store.
In total, more than 800 Fresno students and service providers will benefit from the programs funded by the Strengthening Cities initiative.
“Racial inequities and health disparities across big cities and small towns in the U.S. continue to profoundly affect the lives and futures of tens of millions of Americans every day. ZIP codes have unparalleled consequences for one’s life opportunities and long-term outlook,” said DeCamara.
“The Strengthening Cities initiative will confront the harsh realities of poverty and hunger while impacting many lives and futures. We cannot achieve racial equity if we do not also achieve health equity for all Americans.”