Michelle Obama is launching a non-profit campaign that aims to provide more than a million meals to food-insecure families in connection with the debut of her children’s food show on Netflix.
The “Pass the Love w/ Waffles + Mochi” initiative, named after the new series Waffles + Mochi, is a collaborative campaign by the non-profit Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), its honorary chairwoman Mrs Obama and Higher Ground Productions, the production company owned by the former first lady and her husband, former president Barack Obama.
The non-profit said the campaign was inspired by the series, which tells the story of two puppet friends who “travel the world exploring the wonders of food and culture while learning how to cook with fresh ingredients”.
Walmart and Blue Apron have jumped in to support the initiative, which also aims to “leverage the show, its characters and Mrs Obama to meaningfully shift our food culture toward more affordable, fun, at-home meals for families of every income level”.
PHA president and chief executive Nancy Roman told the Associated Press the two companies will contribute funds to the campaign and raise money for it among their customers. More than half the money is expected to come from the public, she said.
The non-profit was created in conjunction with Mrs Obama’s Let’s Move! effort in 2010.
The former first lady, who has long been a champion of healthy eating, said in the announcement last week that the idea is to “help make sure families all over the country can access fresh, nutritious food” amid the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US has seen a significant rise in hunger during the virus outbreak. One estimate from the organisation Feeding America says around 45 million Americans in 2020 may have experienced food insecurity — limited or uncertain access to adequate food — compared with 35 million in 2019.
Caitlin Caspi, a University of Connecticut professor who studies food insecurity, said the rise in unemployment, the closure of schools and disruptions across food systems – like shortages of staple foods in the early days of the pandemic — all played a factor in the increase, and many turned to food banks for help.
The issue has been “most pronounced among households with children, and in particular, households with children of colour”, Ms Caspi said.
“Meal boxes that provide fresh food and a complete set of ingredients to households are one way to reduce the impact of these food access disruptions, and to get healthy meals on the table,” she added.
The food service organisation Genuine Foods will source and assemble the campaign’s meal boxes, which will then be distributed by local non-profit groups in various cities. Ms Roman saod they will begin to roll out the campaign in cities that have the highest child poverty rates as the funds are raised.
The rollout will start in May, she added, and continue throughout the year. Each city deployment is expected to take four weeks.