"If we want kids to eat more fresh foods, let's take fresh foods to them," Rick Delashmit explained at a recent press lunch for Pepsi Refresh Project.
Delashmit's group, the Belleville Farmer's Market, recently won a $25,000 grant from Pepsi Refresh to support their Taste Buds program. The grant is one of roughly 200 that have so far been made, with the ultimate goal giving away millions of dollars.
Pepsi Refresh is a bold new take on corporate philanthropy, moving more of the grantmaking process online and in the open. Anyone can submit project ideas and vote on their favorites at refresheverything.com, a colorful, dynamic destination curated by the talented folks of pioneering GOOD magazine. My friend Ben Jervey of GOOD (and author of Big Green Apple is the "ambassador" for The Planet section. Pepsi Refresh has a big leaderboard of ideas getting votes, building on the social success of sites like Digg (social news), Kickstarter (indy project funding), Kiva (microloans), and My Starbucks Idea (corporate innovation).
Pepsi Refresh has tons of green projects seeking funding, such as a GREENevada high school sustainability competition, a raptor rehab center, and a program to reduce nonessential use of antibiotics in livestock.
One green project that has already received funding is One Block Off the Grid, which has raised awareness of solar power in rebuilding New Orleans, and has helped solarize communities there (see TDG's own recent trip to New Orleans). Check out the video from One Block Off the Grid below.
But back to that corn hat...The Belleville Farmer's Market has been operating since 1982, but like many people, farmers' market worker Rick Delashmit noticed that the kids in his area weren't benefiting as much as they could from fresh fruits and vegetables. Delashmit watched obesity and diabetes rates climb, while parents told him they just couldn't get their kids to eat veggies in a world overrun with junk food.
But after Delashmit's son was injured in a car accident, he realized he needed to make things simpler, and try to think like a child. "Rather than just tell our kids how important it is to eat healthy, we created a gameshow, sort of like Fear Factor but with fresh fruits and veggies, with a healthy dose of peer pressure," said Delashmit. It's a "mobile, interactive, tactile experience for kids," complete with prizes and a wacky "corn hat dance" that gets kids laughing, and trying veggies.
"I'd estimate that 99% of the time, the kids who participate eat the whole thing," said Delashmit. He added that parents often tell him that their kids reduced their resistance to Brussels sprouts and brocolli in the longterm as a result.
Taste Buds has given away 10,000 pieces of fruit and worked with 3,000 kids. Their motto for kids is, "Been there, ate that." Recently, Delashmit took the show to a disadvantaged school in urban East St. Louis. "We walked in with sugar snap peas, beets, red peppers, showing kids foods they'd never seen before," said Delashmit.
According to Grant Garrison, grant director for GOOD, "Pepsi caught lighting in a bottle with this project." Garrison said the money for Refresh comes from Pepsi's marketing budget, not from the already successful corporate foundation. He said the organizers hope to make a total of about 360 grants, and "directly impact" a million people. He said 32,000 additional volunteers have been engaged.
One unique aspect of Pepsi Refresh is that not every grantee must be a nonprofit, although most are. A few are individuals or even small companies, such as SelflessTee.
So eat your veggies, and sign on to Pepsi Refresh to vote for the coolest projects.
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