KANNAPOLIS — Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA), Cabarrus County’s public health authority, has launched a healthy, affordable take-home meals program at three local daycare centers through a grant from the Walmart Foundation.
Busy, working parents face decision-fatigue at the end of the day and can lack the energy to think through healthy meal planning and preparation; instead, they may resort to cheap and convenient options like fast food. With funding from the Walmart Foundation, CHA, in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), and Meals on Wheels (MOW), aims to improve access to easier and healthier food choices through this innovative pilot program.
Parents with young children enrolled at Dixon Academy, Concord Academy and McKnight Child Development Center now have the opportunity to purchase healthy, family-sized dinners at their daycare sites. When parents come to pick up their child at the end of the day, they are able to take the dinner home for their family to eat.
“Access to healthy food builds the foundation for good health in communities,” said Eileen Hyde, senior director for Walmart.org. “Our goal is to improve people’s ability to more consistently consume nutritious food. That involves connecting people to the food they need as well as building confidence in their choices. This pilot is using innovation and education to improve the health of the community, and we’re proud to support it.”
Taste tests were held by MOW to identify which meals families most enjoyed and would be interested in purchasing. “We have received positive feedback not only from daycare center staff, but also from parents who had the opportunity to try the meals,” said Melanie Grafals, CHA program coordinator. “It is very exciting that, after months of planning, we have started implementation and are ready to track the impact of the program.”
The take home meal service was branded “GOGO Bags,” making the program easily identifiable by parents and children. Families with children enrolled in participating daycare sites are able to order and pay for meals electronically, as well as provide feedback on meal quality. Two meal options are available for purchase each week.
The Walmart Foundation awarded CHA the grant in January 2020, but due to COVID-19 and the impacts the pandemic had on the organization and partner agencies, the program start was delayed until July 2020. Last month, parents and caretakers were able to start placing orders for their GOGO Bags.