Empowered Moms, Healthier Kids: Kellogg Gets Behind a Grassroots Group in Oregon

In the 1930s, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation started to help poor children with education and access to fresh foods in its home state of Michigan. Today, the foundation’s focus is still on helping kids, beginning in the womb with prenatal care, encouraging breastfeeding, increasing access to sustainably produced food, supporting early school success and helping parents establish financially security. 

And these days, you can't think about any of these goals without considering that a large percentage are Latino children from low-income households.

Which explains why the Kellogg Foundation is supporting the group Adelante Mujeres in Washington County, Oregon with $225,000, to improve the health of poor Latino children and their families by increasing their access to healthy food, and backing community health advocacy. The award will run through the end of March 2017, and will also support financial education.

There is a direct correlation in the U.S. between wealth and heath, and new evidence keeps emerging about the extent of this disturbing link. Poverty makes it more difficult for people to buy healthy food, which is more expensive and not always readily available, so the poor have higher rates of obesity and diabetes. The poor are also more likely to smoke and live in areas with bad air quality. Then there's the negative effect of just being poor in a country with such wealth. New findings by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute (supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) present a startling conclusion: People who live in regions with widespread income inequality are more likely to die before the age of 75 than those living in communities with greater income equality, even if the average wealth is the same.

Washington County has a population of 563,000 that is 16 percent Latino. Fourteen percent of all children in the county live in poverty. More than one in four adults are obese, and income inequality is higher than the national average.

Adelante Mujeres was founded in 2002 by Bridget Cooke and Sister Barbara Raymond when they realized that local Latinas weren’t engaged in other local programs. So they founded a group that specifically targeted Latinas. A literal translation of Adelante Mujeres is “move forward, women.” The group offers several programs to empower Latinas and help their children, including adult education, business develoment, early childhood education and work that encourages sustainable agriculture. 

This is the kind of group that Kellogg really seems to like these days: an hands-on operation helping low-income families at the grassroots level, with an eye toward bringing newly empowered voices into larger debates about community life.