The goal of MAZON’s Healthy Snack Sack Program for Kids pilot was to provide healthy, nutritious and affordable snacks for children and distribute culturally appropriate, family-friendly nutrition education to adults and their children. The program provided training and technical assistance to five food pantries to identify, purchase and distribute nutritious and affordable snacks and provide educational materials to help families make healthier food choices. The program was in response to the increase in childhood obesity, nutrition-related diseases, and the unavailability of healthy snacks. It’s extremely challenging for children to eat healthy snacks when so many poor food choices abound – especially within the emergency food system.
The Healthy Snack Sack program worked with two large southern California food banks1, and five food pantries (urban, rural, large and small2). From September 2010 to July 2011, over 12,500 snacks sacks were distributed to low-income children between 5-12 years of age in Oxnard, Simi Valley, Pasadena, and Los Angeles through participating food pantries. MAZON chose to implement the program in food pantries because they are the frontline of hunger prevention in the country.
MAZON provided ongoing training and technical assistance to pantry staff and volunteers with the intent to increase their knowledge about the importance of nutrition education and to grow their pantries’ capacity to distribute healthy snack sacks to clients. Initial orientation and training for pantry staff and volunteers provided the groundwork for the successful launch of the program and a mid-program workshop provided the platform for pantries to share their success stories, challenging situations, and ideas for improving the program.
1Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Food Share serving Ventura County.
2The participating food pantries are City Impact (3 sites), First Church of Nazarene, Foothill Unity Center, La Hermandad, and the Salvation Army/Simi Valley.