MINNEAPOLIS – The General Mills Champions for Healthy Kids Program, in partnership with the American Dietetic Association, has awarded $500,000 in grants to community-based organizations across the U.S. for programs that support young people living healthy, active lifestyles.

The grants program awarded $10,000 to 50 nonprofits, schools and other organizations across the United States to develop fun, interactive programs that incorporate a fitness and nutrition component, and operate under the expert guidance of a registered dietitian.

The Champions for Healthy Kids initiative is a partnership of the General Mills Foundation, the American Dietetic Association Foundation and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Since 2002, General Mills has invested more than $18 million in overall youth nutrition and fitness programs that have served more than 3.5 million children nationwide.

This year’s grant recipients serve children from a spectrum of racial, ethnic, geographic and economic backgrounds. They include:

Concrete Safaris in New York City, which works with 7-12 year olds from one of East Harlem’s poorest housing projects, providing them with a fun curriculum featuring science-and language arts-based nutrition classes and outdoor fitness. The program includes hands-on projects such as gardening and monthly health-based events at the youth-designed and installed urban farm. The objective is to help students learn about nutrition, increase their physical activity levels and help them understand the links between physical, mental, environmental and community health.

The Taos Pueblo Day School in New Mexico provides weekly health and nutrition classes with an emphasis on diabetes education for American Indian children. Recent data shows that 42 percent of children ages 2-15 at Taos Pueblo are overweight. The program provides kids with weekly cooking classes during summer camp and daily recreational activities using the SPARK after-school curriculum.

The Des Moines Independent Community School District in Iowa will develop a nutrition and physical education program in elementary schools to improve students’ knowledge, attitude and preference for healthy food and snacks, as well as incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity into their daily routine. Parents will also receive education and resources to encourage healthy behaviors at home.

“The number of overweight children in the United States has increased dramatically in recent decades,” said Judith L. Dodd, registered dietitian and chair of the American Dietetic Association Foundation. “Registered dietitians are uniquely qualified to help children develop healthful nutrition habits and programs like these are the perfect way for RDs and families to work together.”

An additional component of the Champions for Healthy Kids program includes sponsorship of the Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards in Minneapolis and other select cities, as well as the development of nutrition and fitness mentoring models.

To expand its support of youth nutrition and fitness education, General Mills also sponsors the Healthy Communities initiative focused in Washington, D.C., which has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the nation.

As part of the program, General Mills recently awarded a $400,000 grant over four years to the United Way of the National Capital Area’s Child Wellness Initiative to promote fitness and nutrition among school-aged children. The program is a joint venture of the UWNCA, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Commission on Food and Nutrition.

“We believe in the power of youth, nutrition and fitness partnerships in communities across the country that help children make healthy lifestyle choices that last a lifetime,” said Ellen Goldberg Luger, executive director of the General Mills Foundation and a General Mills vice president.

Information on the General Mills Champions program, grant applications, best practices and model programs that can be adopted by any organization are available online. Additional information on the Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards can be found online.