As Dole Sunshine Company continues to deliver on the Dole Promise to bring sustainable nutrition to all, it has launched the Dole Sunshine For All® Cities Program in Merced, CA, the third community to host this initiative designed to bring nutrition access to those in need.
Merced is located within the San Joaquin Valley in California, a region known for its rich farmland and fresh crop production. While the area is responsible for producing much of the state’s agricultural bounty, Merced County’s child food insecurity rate is more than 27 percent – meaning more than 1 in 4 children in the area are experiencing hunger.
To bring Sunshine For All Cities to fruition in Merced, DSC is partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County to serve as the program hub.
“We’re thrilled to partner with DSC to bring this program to our families,” said See Lee, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County. “Having spent many years working with disenfranchised youth in the area, I’ve seen firsthand how hunger can impact the well-being in the short and long term. I’m excited to see the positive effect the program will have on our club and beyond.”
Mitchell Vanagten, longtime food access advocate and Executive Chef of Catering at UC Merced, will lead the kids’ culinary and nutrition education program. “Education around good nutrition, as well as shopping and preparing healthy meals on a budget, is a critical component to creating systemic, lasting change,” said Vanagten. “I look forward to getting in the kitchen with the Boys & Girls Club kids to instill knowledge and passion for cooking, using local ingredients paired with Dole’s wide portfolio of good-for-you packaged fruits and juices.”
As part of the initiative, the Dole Kids Cooking Camp will equip kids to navigate the challenges of food insecurity and nutrition education, with classes covering basic cooking skills, healthy recipe preparation, smart grocery shopping and meal planning tips. Beyond cooking classes, the program will eventually grow to include pop-up farmers’ markets and Good Stuff Kiosks, a system of free-standing refrigerated food kiosks to be placed at Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the country that were announced at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in September.
“Leveraging our resources and partnerships to support places like Merced is at the heart of our efforts to increase access to sustainable nutrition to 1 billion people by 2025,” shared Orzse Hodi, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Americas, Dole Packaged Foods, LLC. “We look forward to seeing the program’s continued and lasting impact on communities like Merced, Baltimore and Jackson.”
The program, first introduced in Jackson, MS in 2020 followed by Baltimore, MD in 2022, has served more than 30,000 families to date with support from partners including GE Appliances, Bumble Bee Seafoods, Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation and more.
To learn more about the Dole Sunshine For All Cities Program and its impact in Merced and beyond, click here.