Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb, Chicago Public Schools and the Englewood neighborhood help grow community gardens at eight schools in the Southside neighborhood at 2 pm on September 19, 2014 at Miles Davis Magnet Academy.

“Whole Kids Foundation has a central belief that it takes strong collaboration among community stakeholders to help our kids reach their greatest potential,” says Whole Kids Foundation Executive Director Nona Evans. “Whole Kids Foundation is proud to announce that Chicago-based investment firm William Blair and Company – who has a decades long history of supporting the community – has joined Whole Kids Foundation’s efforts with a matching grant of $20,000 that will enable the implementation of Whole Kids Foundation’s Healthy Teacher Program workshops for area educators.”

“William Blair is committed to giving back to the communities in which we live and work, and we are honored to join Whole Kids Foundation in an effort to improve the health and wellbeing of educators and students in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and across the nation,” said Laura VanPeenan, Managing Director of Investment Banking at William Blair. “Over the past several years our philanthropic and community impact efforts have become more strategic and the theme of health and youth has emerged as one of the leading cornerstones of our community involvement.”

As part of its ongoing commitment to ending childhood obesity through increased access to healthy foods, Whole Kids Foundation will celebrate the creation growth of eight school gardens made possible by grants to Chicago Public Schools in the Englewood community.

“Chicago Public Schools appreciates partnerships with companies like Whole Foods Market that help educators connect real life experiences to the classroom,” says Chicago Public Schools Executive Director of Nutrition Support Services, Leslie Fowler.

Fowler also supports Chicago Public Schools in its initiative to incorporate innovative methods of educating its students on the importance of nutrition. 

“The use of learning gardens combines the opportunity to use Common Core State Standards in a fun interactive way that includes healthy habits and nutrition education,” says Fowler. “We want to teach our students not only how to make healthy choices, but also the reasoning as to why they should make them.  If our students understand that process, they can take what they learn in school beyond the lunchroom, and apply it in their daily lives.”  

In the fall of 2013, Whole Kids Foundation pledged $20,000 to support schools in the Englewood community coinciding with the announcement of a new Whole Foods Market location at the intersection of 63rd and Halsted in Chicago. All Englewood schools were invited to apply for grants through an open application process. Whole Kids Foundation also worked closely with Chicago Public Schools to further their goal of revitalizing several district gardens.

The follow schools received Whole Kids Foundation grants to support school gardens: Hinton Elementary School, Jesse Sherwood Elementary School, Johnson College Prep Academy, Kershaw Magnet Elementary School, Langford Elementary School, Miles Davis Magnet Academy, Providence Englewood Charter School, and Schmid Elementary School. These grants are in addition to a pledge from Chicago-based investment firm, William Blair, to provide matching grants of $20,000 to fund Whole Kids Foundation initiatives in the Englewood community.

School gardens are a central pillar in Whole Kids Foundation’s work to support schools in creating a healthy learning environment.  Gardens positively address six of the eight factors that can lead to childhood obesity while also providing children with an understanding of how food is grown.

“When kids grow food they are more willing to try a wide range of vegetables,” says Evans.

For schools interested in implementing or expanding a school garden, Whole Kids Foundation’s is accepting applications until October 31, 2014 at wholekidsfoundation.org.

The matching grant from William Blair will be used to bring Whole Kids Foundation’s Healthy Teachers Program, which teaches nutrition, healthy cooking techniques and healthy recipes among other topics to teachers in the Englewood community.

Expected speakers include Walter Robb, Whole Foods Market Co-CEO and chairman of Whole Kids Foundation Board; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools Food Service Director; and Cheryl Belt, Miles Davis Principal along with Miles Davis garden coordinator Michael McKinley. Following the short program, students will lead a tour of the school garden and refreshments will be served.