“When I first started doing this, I was focused on sports and education. Food was the last thing on my mind. But kids would be tired, and some were literally hurting because they were hungry. The MATTERbox snack packs caused me to look at things differently and make healthy food a key component of all of our programs.”

At a recent MATTER Partner Conference, Tony Sanneh, Founder of The Sanneh Foundation and retired soccer star, shared with our local and global partners how The Sanneh Foundation, an organization committed to empowering youth in the Twin Cities, uses MATTERbox snack packs to impact the 15,000 kids with whom they work.

Tony Sanneh

Tony Sanneh talks about making healthy food a key part of his organization’s programming at the MATTER Partner Conference.

“In our programs, the snack packs allow the youth to be present and engaged. They also give us a platform to talk about healthy food.”

MATTERbox meal kits and snack packs are designed to address the challenge that today’s generation of kids may not live as long as their parents due to poor eating habits, diabetes and lack of physical activity.

At our recent 2019 YOU MATTER Gala, Chris Cronin, CEO of MOBE, indicated, “In the U.S., the obesity prevalence in our children aged 2-19 has skyrocketed in the last 15 years. Today, 20% of America’s youth are obese. The obesity prevalence of children in low-income communities is twice as high as it is in affluent communities.”

By providing good tasting, healthy food with easy recipes, goal cards and YOU MATTER notes of encouragement, the MATTERbox is a tool to spark interest in and conversations around healthy eating for kids and their families.

For many of our community partners, though, the MATTERbox is more than a healthy eating tool. It’s a way to connect with the people they serve, a starting point for building relationships. Tony explained,

“Everything we do is around building developmental relationships. Sometimes the way we connect with kids its that they come to our support room because they know its a place where they can get something to eat. So the MATTERbox snack packs are actually the starting point for a lot of the relationships that we build. And it’s often the reason they come back.”

Another panelist, Karvee Kawalawu, shared her experience using the snack packs at Avivo, a non-profit organization on a mission to transform lives by providing chemical and mental health services, career education, and employment services. As Avivo’s Program Director, Karvee has discovered that the snack packs can play a crucial role in opening hearts and minds to receive the help that Avivo offers.

“I was working with a lady recently who was seeking resources for her family. While we were talking, I could just tell there was something more going on. When she told me she hadn’t eaten that day, I immediately got her a snack pack. ‘Oh, I can’t eat it,’ she said, ‘I’ll save it for my son.’ I reassured her that we had one for her son too, and her face just lit up. She was so appreciative. After eating some food, we were then able to have a deeper conversation about other issues that she and her family were going through. We could help her better once we dealt with her hunger.”

The handwritten YOU MATTER notes of encouragement in the meal kits and snack packs are another way for our partners to connect with the people they serve. Karvee got choked up talking about the impact of the notes on her clients.

“I get so emotional when I think about these notes because I work with people who never hear how amazing they are. The system has forgotten them. They have no one that gives them positive messages. But when they get a note that tells them they matter, and I’m able to reinforce that message, that makes such a huge difference in their lives.”

Conference attendees were clearly moved. Said one participant afterwards, “I love how MATTERbox addresses the whole person.  How do we expect people to care about themselves and try to get healthier if they feel worthless?” 

MATTER is proud to work with The Sanneh Foundation and Avivo, as well as our many other amazing community partners who are transforming lives and creating healthier and stronger communities. Changing the world for these families changes the world for all of us.

If you would like to join us on this world-changing mission, please visit here for more information!