On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) hosted a multitude of leaders in the food and wellness industry including Former First Lady and PHA Honorary Chair Michelle Obama and Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms at their 2021 Pass the Love Virtual Summit. They announced the launch of PHA’s “Pass the Love with Waffles + Mochi” campaign against food inequity and insecurity.

Obama’s Higher Ground Productions is also teaming up with Netflix to produce “Waffles + Mochi,” a child friendly television series geared towards introducing children to various fruits and vegetables that are vital in maintaining a healthy lifestyle sustainable into adulthood.

“The minute I saw the concept of puppets and food adventure I thought to myself, this speaks directly to the things I’ve been working on for the past decade. Going into peoples homes and teaching kids how to cook while bringing families together around food to create better education around food nutrition,” says Obama.

Infants are naturally born with a like for sweetness and a dislike for bitterness. However, during the ages of 2-6, children’s taste buds are extremely malleable so it’s dire to introduce fruits and vegetables at a young age.

“I think I was like most children, we come to this earth with limited taste buds. It takes time for those things to develop. I only liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast until the time I went away to college and the same went for my daughters,” says Obama.

“You have to be patient and give them time to mature and develop. The whole underlying philosophy of “Waffles + Mochi” is that there is no good or bad when it comes to healthy food options. Just explore and try new things. Sure, some foods might look a little scary but it’s all done with a level of humor and lack of judgment when it comes to certain foods being good or bad.”

With 1 out of 8 Atlanta families struggling to put food on the table pre-pandemic, COVID-19 only intensified this growing dilemma. Obama and Bottoms made it a top priority to make the benefits of this initiative accessible to as many families as possible.

Obama says, “This pandemic has not affected families equally and food equity is an important issue. Families are going hungry. If we’re really going to have this conversation we have to make sure every family can participate.”

With Atlanta and Cleveland recently announced as the first two cities to launch this initiative and future cities to be announced at a later time, over 400,000 healthy meals will be distributed to families in need according to Peter Dolan, Chair of the PHA Board of Directors.

The PHA, Higher Ground Productions and Obama have set a goal to distribute 1,000,000 meals all inspired by “Waffles + Mochi” to help re-ignite the joy of cooking and making healthy meals at home.

“We knew going into the pandemic we had to change course very quickly. Atlanta is a little different then other cities. Our children matter. We’ve transitioned our employees into serving meals to kids who normally would receive their breakfast and lunch at schools,” Bottoms continues, “this also extends to after school programs and community centers as well. Partnerships have been so incredibly important to us.”

Furthermore, Obama and Higher Ground Productions are locally partnering with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The “Pass the Love” campaign will distribute not only meal kits but also nutritious recipes and ingredients to 5,000 families across Atlanta, Georgia. Making healthy meal preparation easier from the comfort of your own home.

“Over the last 12 months we have distributed enough food to provide for communities that have not escaped this demand, especially with the economic strife of COVID-19,” says Jon West, Vice President of Partner Relations for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

“We are proximate and we are a lot closer to people who are in need than we were a year ago. Some of us even finding ourselves in that place of need. Our communities continue to see a need not just in Atlanta but across the nation as well.”

In this image from video, former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

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