Wednesday, June 6, 2018


“The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry.” 
                                                                    --Bill Gates

I have always been inspired by the priorities of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Go to and the first thing you see at the top of the landing page is this statement:  “ALL LIVES HAVE EQUAL VALUE.”  

The above statement describes how I approach the work of the Growing Healthy Kids charitable organization.  As a faith-based organization seeking to bring improve the health and lives of America's children, these are three of our core beliefs:
  • All children deserve access to healthy food.  
  • All people with special needs deserve access to healthy food.  
  • All parents deserve access to education and resources about how best to raise their children in safe communities. 

Something many people don't know about me is that my experience includes teaching adults with special needs basic cooking skills.  When I had this job, we would travel to local farms to see the fields where vegetables were growing and meet the farmers.  We would pick up baskets of freshly picked greens, peppers, tomatoes, and whatever else was in season that week back to the kitchen and prepare outrageously fragrant meals together.  I don't know who had more fun - the adults in the class or me.  

Those adults who happen to have special needs taught me that if you are not able to use your voice to communicate, there are other ways to communicate that sharing a wonderful meal together matters to them.  You see it in their eyes, as they smell the flavors cooking together and they make eye contact with you.  You see it in their behaviors, when there is a lack of inappropriate outbursts or acts of agression.  You see it on their plates, when they eat every morsel and hold up their plates asking for more.   

Clockwise from top left:  French lentils, broccoli, rolled oats, and a peach.
The adults with special needs I used to serve no longer have the opportunity to create healthy dishes in their cooking classes using vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.  Sometimes the commitment to sustain a positive change is difficult.  Inspirational leadership is not easy, especially when you cannot see the forest for the trees.  Are those with special needs in your community given meals that an inmate at the county jail might be fed?  No one can thrive when they consume primarily processed foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar. Garbage in, garbage out.  

Serving those with special needs is no different than our health ministry serving children at risk for obesity and obesity-related diseases like diabetes.  Parents routinely drop off their children for our classes and tell us, “They don't like those vegetables.”  When given the opportunity for kids to learn how to cut, peel, chop, grate, and mix vegetables, it is always a surprise to parents to see their kids coming out with samples for their parents to enjoy.  Most kids will eagerly taste what they have prepared. 

Falling in love with good food is a very good thing.  It can only happen when ALL people have access to healthy food. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.