Dannon Doles Out Grant

WAPAKONETA — Joint Township District Memorial Hospital was presented with a $30,000 check from The Dannon Company Monday night at the Auglaize County Fair to fund the Grand Health Family Challenge.

The $30,000 grant was awarded as part of the Dannon Next Generation Nutrition Grant program, which strives to combat childhood obesity. Dannon Manager of Corporate Responsibility Gayle Binney said the program was initiated in 2006 to help children who were struggling with being overweight or obese.

“Dannon wanted to make an effort to help be a part of the solution to the childhood obesity problem,” Binney said. “Our company mission is health through food and so for us that means creating healthy products and it also means hopefully helping people to develop healthy eating habits and healthy lifestyle habits that they can take with them through their lifetime.”

In the past, Dannon has funded local programs with the Council on Rural Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YMCA, Minster Local Schools and the Ohio State University extension in Wapakoneta. Binney noted each of the programs focused on different ages of children.

“It’s a little bit of everything, but I think that’s what’s special about the program,” she said. “We have the opportunity to fund programs that are creative, and that’s the piece that we’re looking for — new ways to reach kids and hopefully a way to measure behavior change in the kids. To have programs that serve different ages of children is very attractive to us.”

Now in its sixth year, Dannon’s Next Generation Nutrition Grant has affected thousands of children.

“Almost 17,000 children have participated in programs that were funded by Dannon’s Next Generation Nutrition Grants, so that’s really exciting for us,” Binney said. “We’re really proud of that. I think seeing the impact of the grants will be a very long-term thing and I think that there are a lot of different organizations that are working with kids right now to try to help them learn these things because people realize the severity of the issue right now.”

Joint Township District Memorial Hospital’s Grand Health Challenge was an attractive program to Dannon, Binney said.

“I think the piece that was so appealing about the program is that it’s the whole family,” Binney said. “Especially if you’re talking about children’s nutrition education, at the end of the day, it’s about the whole family making a commitment because kids eat what’s in their house. So, if parents are looking at what they’re buying when they go shopping and are looking at portion sizes that their kids are eating, those are all really important things that go toward everybody’s health.”

The Grand Health Challenge is different from the previous programs that Dannon has funded.

“I think the best successes we’ve had are when we fund a program for the first time they’ve offered it, and then they have a chance to really make sure that it works very well and then keep it going for future years,” Binney said. “In this case, we have a unique opportunity because we already have a successful program, and I think with Dannon’s funding, they’ll be able to expand on the family level, rather than just on the adult level.”

The Dannon Next Generation Nutrition Grant is available to any nonprofit organization that serves the community in Auglaize, Mercer, Shelby and Darke counties.

“The reason that Dannon chose those counties is that we have employees who come from each of those locations to work at our plant (in Minster),” Binney said. “We have the largest yogurt manufacturing plant in the country here in Minster and we’re really proud of that at Dannon. So we have employees who really come from all over. Auglaize County is officially where the plant is located, but the plant is actually on the border of Shelby, Mercer and Auglaize all at once, so it’s important to us to look at the whole community when we make our grant awards.”

Binney said Dannon plans to offer the grant again in 2012, and encouraged local organizations to apply, keeping in mind several factors.

“The piece that we encourage any organization that’s interested in applying to think about is ways that they would be able to teach children healthy eating habits,” she said. “We usually look at different criteria, including creativity and originality, community partners, the involvement of a nutrition professional and a nutrition curriculum, ways to measure behavior change — that’s always really important for us because I think all of us know what we should be eating, but to see the follow through is really important for us.”

The Dannon Next Generation Nutritional Grant program is typically announced in January, and applications are available at Dannon.com, Binney said.

“We usually ask for applications to be submitted by the end of March,” Binney said. “The reason we choose March is that March is National Nutrition Month, so it’s an interesting time for us to know that we have a number of people thinking about nutrition, even on a grant application level. We do an internal review in April and May, and usually we make the awards in the summer.”

Binney noted organizations do not need to be located in the surrounding counties to be eligible for the grant.

“It’s open to any nonprofit organization that serves the four counties,” Binney said. “So, for example, Council on Rural Services, even though they were located in Miami County, they operate programs here in Shelby, Darke, Mercer and Auglaize counties, so that’s OK. Any nonprofit organization that’s also located in those four counties is of course encouraged to apply as well.”

The Grand Health Family Challenge begins Jan. 3, and anyone interested is encouraged to contact Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, or go online to GrandLakeHealth.org.

For more information on the Dannon Next Generation Nutrition Grant, visit Dannon.com, or “Like” its page on Facebook.