The nation's largest retailer recently gifted thousands of dollars to a Southeast arts facility for its programs that emphasize healthy eating and a health-conscious lifestyle.
Representatives of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation presented a $50,000 check to Edmund Fleet, executive director of THEARC [Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus] for its nutrition and wellness programs that include its organic teaching garden. D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) attended the event on Wed., June 20 and applauded Walmart for its generosity.
"THEARC is a committed member of this community and this partnership with Walmart will help address critical needs of our residents," said Barry, 76. "Improving the health and wellness of the children in our community, especially in an area of need as great as Ward 8, should be a top priority of our community partners. I applaud this generous commitment to help that cause."
THEARC opened in October 2005 and has hosted various events with White House officials, well-known artists and athletes and community leaders in attendance. It's also home to 11 non-profits and has a community theater, a gymnasium, libraries, computer labs and classrooms for public use. THEARC is known for its dance and music programs, particularly for young people.
Fleet, 43, echoed Barry's sentiments.
"THEARC is delighted and grateful to Walmart for enabling us to provide a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and health and wellness instruction each week to all of our campers this summer," said Fleet. "THEARC's mission is to provide the kids and families who live east of the Anacostia River with all of the opportunities they need in order to live healthy and productive lives. Providing our kids with healthy fresh meals and information about how they can take good care of themselves goes hand-in-hand with the educational, cultural arts and recreational programs we already provide at THEARC."
Fleet, who lives in Southeast, said that children who are well-nourished perform better in their fine arts classes. He noted that Walmart supported THEARC's healthy living efforts last year but the $50,000 gift is a first of that magnitude for the company.
David Berns, the director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, said the gift comes at a critical time. "Convenient access to affordable, healthy foods is a pressing issue affecting an increasing number of families in the District of Columbia," Berns said.
A 2010 report by the Food Research and Action Center in Northwest stated that over 35 percent of households with children in the District said that they were unable to afford enough food. The problem is more acute in Wards 7 and 8, which have the city's highest obesity rates and are home to large "food deserts", which are areas where people don't have access to quality foods and grocery stores.
The organic teaching garden is in response to first lady Michelle Obama's program that promotes good health through the expansion of farmers markets and home-grown foods. Walmart supports Obama's efforts. Walmart is scheduled to open six stores in the District, though none are located in Ward 8. Nevertheless, Henry Jordan, Walmart senior vice president of the Eastern Seaboard Division, said that his company is happy to do its part to help the community.
"We are committed to helping those in need in communities we serve," Jordan said. "Through this grant, we hope to help THEARC continue to provide healthy meals and engaging nutrition-based programming for young people in the District of Columbia."