NBA Players, Nonprofit Encourage Healthy Eating in Flint

The National Basketball Players Association and the FlintNOW Foundation have signed onto an initiative to help promote healthy eating to counteract lead exposure in Flint, Michigan.

NBA players, a local nonprofit, a university, and a hospital are joining forces to get healthy food in the hands of Flint, Michigan, residents.

The National Basketball Players Association and the FlintNOW Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores, partnered with the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital on their Pediatric Public Health Initiative to distribute 8,000 “nutrition backpacks” to elementary school children at Flint public schools on June 6.

“One of the best ways to help kids and their families in Flint right now is to put more healthy food on the table,” Gores said in a statement. “Our team in Detroit and NBA players throughout the league have really been stepping up to support Flint, and this is another program that will make a big difference.”

Hooper, shown handing backpacks to schoolchildren. (Chris Schwegler/via the Pistons’ Facebook page)

The backpacks included three $5 gift certificates to Flint Farmers’ Market, healthy eating and nutritional information, and a mini basketball. For each gift certificate redeemed, another $5 certificate will be rewarded to further promote healthy eating habits.

Gores and the NBPA Foundation will fund the program, while Detroit Pistons players, entertainment team, mascot, and legends Rick Mahorn and Earl Cureton helped distribute the backpacks to children.

“Our players are committed to the health of the children and families of Flint,” NBPA Foundation Executive Director Sherrie Deans said in the release. “This initiative is the first step in providing long term access to healthier food options, and a healthier future.”

The initiative was created by Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital in the midst of the Flint water and lead-exposure crisis. Led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who helped uncover the contamination, the project brings together experts to help children grow healthy in the face of lead exposure.

Hanna-Attisha said that foods high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C can help alleviate the effects of lead poisoning, especially in children. “More access to nutritious foods will not only help our children today, it will make them healthy for many years to come,” she said in the statement. “This partnership will help make sure our kids have a bright, healthy future.”

Gores, who grew up in Flint, created FlintNOW and pledged funds to meet short-term and long-term needs in the city during the water crisis. If the backpack program is successful, the organization would consider repeating it in the fall, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

Detroit Pistons mascot Hooper entertains a group of schoolchildren in Flint, Michigan, on Monday. (Chris Schwegler/from the Pistons' Facebook page)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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