CHICAGO, July 17 /PRNewswire/ -- The makers of Hidden Valley(R) ranch dressings, owned by The Clorox Company (NYSE: CLX), today announced it will be awarding more than a half million dollars in grants next year to elementary schools nationwide to support increased access to, and consumption of, fresh vegetables during lunch. The grant program - the Love Your Veggies(TM) Nationwide School Lunch Campaign - was created to help schools implement a recent federally mandated local wellness policy that requires schools to develop and execute programs to improve their students' overall health and nutrition, and in response to the overwhelming shortage of funds available for the execution of these programs. Today at the School Nutrition Association's Annual National Conference in Chicago, Hidden Valley, along with its partners the School Nutrition Association (SNA) and its foundation and Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), announced it will provide $10,000 grants to 51 elementary schools in the United States - one grant per state plus an additional grant to a school in Oakland, Calif., Clorox's hometown. Beginning Aug. 1, schools can visit www.LoveYourVeggiesGrants.com to get more information on the grant program and complete an online application. The Love Your Veggies campaign began as a pilot program last year, awarding grants totaling $90,000 to six schools nationwide. But with last year's grant submissions came an outcry from schools, validating the need for help to fund nutrition programs. "As we read the grant applications last year, we realized the need for fresh vegetables in schools was even greater than we thought. Many students across the nation do not have access to fresh vegetables on a daily or even weekly basis," says Kristin Wonzen, marketing manager of Hidden Valley. "This year we are excited to expand our Love Your Veggies grant program to make a difference for at least one school in every state. In addition to providing better nutrition during school lunch time, we also are hoping to educate kids on the importance of vegetables in their diet." Supporting the Veggie Cause Millions of students nationwide consume a meal at school daily and, for many children, school lunch is the most important meal of the day, contributing one-third to one-half of their nutritional intake, according to USDA. With the significance of lunch in a student's diet and childhood obesity levels continuing to rise, schools are an integral source to ensure kids are getting the right foods each day. No one knows this more than Hidden Valley's partners -SNA, a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country, and PBH, which recently renamed its healthy eating campaign from the well-known "5 A Day" to "Fruits and Veggies - More Matters,(TM)" a more inspiring health initiative focusing on motivating people to simply eat more fruits and veggies at every eating occasion because they are not getting enough in their daily diets. "In order to meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, most kids need to more than double their current intake of fruits and vegetables," states Elizabeth Pivonka, president and CEO of PBH. "We know from our previous work with schools that offering funding for fresh vegetables is a great way to do this." "Schools nationwide are trying to implement creative ways to get their kids to eat their veggies, yet simply lack the funds to do so," says Janey Thornton, president of the SNA. "Increased produce consumption is instrumental in improving a child's long-term health and can help with weight control, decreasing risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and diabetes and providing fiber, potassium and other important nutrients. We praise Hidden Valley for their efforts in making an impact on thousands of children." Nutrition Awareness Beyond the Lunch Room A study presented at the 2006 American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition found that students may not necessarily eat more vegetables by virtue of the salad bar alone if the changes in the cafeteria are not supported by nutrition education in the classroom. Researchers at Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that salad bar use soars when teachers support the new cafeteria addition with lessons on nutrition. To address this issue, the makers of Hidden Valley(R) ranch dressings have partnered with Weekly Reader Custom Publishing, creators of innovative teaching materials and resources for students, to distribute classroom kits to 30,000 elementary schools nationwide. Focused on the theme "Vegetables and You," students will learn about the importance of eating vegetables to maintain a healthy lifestyle through cross-curricular activities for grades 1 through 6 that include math, language arts, and science. A History of Help The Hidden Valley(R) Love Your Veggies(TM) Nationwide School Lunch Campaign also was created based on findings from a 2006 study with two Northern California elementary schools conducted by the University of California Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and the Butte County Cooperative Extension. One of the most significant findings from the study was that children consumed 23 percent more vegetables when paired with a moderate amount of ranch dressing. And the benefits of a moderate amount of ranch dressing may go beyond helping to increase veggie consumption. A study conducted at Iowa State University found that certain vitamins and cancer-fighting compounds found in fruits and vegetables are fat-soluble. This study suggests that some moderate amount of fat may help the body adequately absorb nutrients.(1) The 2007 Love Your Veggies pilot program provided grant money and a salad bar to six elementary schools nationwide: Garden City Elementary School in Indianapolis; Lakeland Elementary in Humble, Texas; Seahurst Elementary in Burien, Wash.; South Hamilton Elementary in Jewell, Iowa; Victor Herbert Elementary in Chicago, Ill. and Sequoia Elementary in Oakland, Calif. This year's grant funds will be used toward the implementation of a creative and sustainable vegetable consumption program, fresh produce, program staffing, a training course for school personnel given by SNA representatives on how to create a healthy and nutritious environment in school, and nutrition education supplies. Applying for a Grant All interested schools must apply for a Love Your Veggies grant online at www.LoveYourVeggiesGrants.com. Schools can apply for a grant beginning Aug. 1, and applications will be accepted through Nov. 30, 2007. Grant recipients will be selected by representatives of Hidden Valley, SNA and PBH, and announced in March 2008 during National Nutrition Month. About Hidden Valley(R) The HV Food Products Company is a subsidiary of The Clorox Company, headquartered in Oakland, Calif. Clorox is a leading manufacturer and marketer of consumer products with fiscal year 2006 revenues of $4.6 billion. With 7,600 employees worldwide, the company manufactures products in two dozen countries and markets them in more than 100 countries. For more information about Clorox, visit www.TheCloroxCompany.com. About the School Nutrition Association The School Nutrition Association is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. The Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals. Founded in 1946, SNA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children's health and well being through school meals and sound nutrition education. About Produce for Better Health Foundation Produce for Better Health Foundation is a 16-year old nonprofit organization whose mission is to motivate people to eat more fruits and vegetables for a healthier America. The foundation is co-chair and member of the National Partnership, consisting of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and industry working in collaboration to expand nationwide efforts to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables for improved public health. Their new initiative, Fruits & Veggies-More Matters(TM), replaces the 5 A Day Program and is created to help Americans overcome common everyday barriers to eating fruits and veggies. These include differing tastes within a family, not knowing how to prepare them or keep them fresh, or simply not liking them. For more information on Produce for Better Health Foundation and the Fruits and Veggies - More Matters program, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. (1) Brown, M. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2004).
SOURCE Hidden Valley