Sesame Workshop, AmeriChoice Partner On National Healthy Habits Outreach Project

Published March 04, 2010

  • “Healthy Habits for Life” to help low-income families make affordable, nutritional food choices for children
  • Advisory board of nationally known nutrition and child-development experts to guide the project

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, and AmeriChoice, the UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company that provides health benefits for state and public programs, are partnering to develop a bilingual education outreach program aimed at helping low-income families make food choices that are affordable, nutritional and set the foundation for lifelong healthy habits. AmeriChoice will brand the partnership UnitedHealthcare, by which it is known in many markets. 

Rosita and Elmo from Sesame Workshop 
Rosita and Elmo will help teach caregivers and children how to make food choices that are affordable and nutritional.
© 2010 Sesame Workshop. “Sesame Street” and its logo are trademarks of Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved.

More than one in five children in the U.S. have insufficient access to nutritional and affordable food today, the result of a challenging economy that continues to affect low-income Americans.1

The initiative will offer support and creative resources for families with children between the ages of 2 and 5 to cope with “food insecurity,” defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “households where there is a lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources.” There is growing concern that food insecurity could contribute to childhood obesity rates, which over the past three decades have tripled to nearly one in three children in America being overweight or obese.

Program outreach will include bilingual (English and Spanish) Healthy Habits kits with an original DVD starring the Sesame Street Muppets and a documentary of families along with their children using a variety of strategies for maintaining Healthy Habits for Life despite limited financial resources.

The kits will also include child-friendly recipes, activity cards and a parent/caregiver guide with information about healthful eating and ways to make nutritional and economical food choices for the entire family. In addition, AmeriChoice will send Healthy Habits for Life messages and information to low-income and vulnerable populations in public sector health care programs via the Web, physician mailings, and member mailings and newsletters that will go to 3 million members.

According to the USDA, more than 49 million people, including nearly 17 million children, live in households that experienced hunger multiple times throughout the year. In response, both the federal government and Congress are taking strong stances to improve children’s health.

In February, First Lady Michelle Obama announced her “Let’s Move” initiative to address childhood obesity and promote healthier food options to low-income neighborhoods. In addition, Congress and the USDA have made reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act a priority this year. With few resources addressing the issue of food insecurity, today’s announcement represents a key effort to fill an unmet need for children and their families.

“With the Healthy Habits for Life partnership, AmeriChoice and Sesame Workshop have a tremendous opportunity to help parents and caregivers gain a greater understanding of the relationship between healthful food habits and children’s healthy growth,” said Rick Jelinek, chief executive officer of AmeriChoice. “We are committed to supporting low-income parents and their children with quality health care every day, and we are pleased to partner with Sesame Workshop to make a positive difference in children’s well-being and quality of life.”

“This is an opportunity for Sesame Street to continue to harness its power to help families and their children make healthful, nutritional decisions despite a limited income, at a time when nurturing children’s overall development is so critical and the subsequent positive effects can last a lifetime,” said Gary E. Knell president and chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop. “AmeriChoice’s outreach and quality care in low-income communities makes them the ideal partner in this effort.”

Program development will begin next week with the first meeting of an advisory board consisting of leading nutrition and child-development experts who will inform and guide Sesame Workshop on all aspects of the program design. Advisory board participants include:

Enid A. Borden
President and CEO, Meals On Wheels Association of America
Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH
Founder, Witnesses to Hunger; Principal Investigator, Philadelphia GROW Project; Professor, Drexel University School of Public Health
Vicky Escarra
President & CEO, Feeding America
Edward Frongillo, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor and Department Chair, Department of Health and Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina
Rev. Douglas Greenaway
President and CEO, National WIC Association
Ronald Kleinman, M.D.
Physician in Chief, MassGeneral Hospital for Children
Chair, Department of Pediatrics; Chief, Pediatric Gastrointestinal and Nutrition Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital
Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Hugo Melgar-Quinonez, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, OSU Extension Specialist, Department of Human Nutrition, The Ohio State University
Art Smith
Chef, author, television personality
Wassy Tesfa, M.A.
Head Start Director, Center for Community & Family Services, Inc.; Board Member, National Head Start Association

This new Sesame Workshop initiative will be based on its successful Healthy Habits for Life initiative, which has made a difference in helping parents, caregivers, educators, health care professionals and policymakers understand the need to begin setting a foundation for healthy habits early in children’s lives.

AmeriChoice has provided nutritional, exercise and obesity-avoidance programs for its health plan members in many states for more than 20 years. The company has also created healthy eating programs for members in several states in which it operates.

About Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children’s television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 140 countries, and other acclaimed shows to help bridge the literacy gap including The Electric Company and Pinky Dinky Doo. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at

About AmeriChoice
AmeriChoice is the country’s largest provider of personalized health care programs for low-income and vulnerable populations. AmeriChoice’s parent company, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), is a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. AmeriChoice serves approximately 3 million people in Medicaid, Medicare and Children's Health Insurance Programs in 25 states and the District of Columbia. It delivers services under a variety of brands including UnitedHealthcare, Unison Health Plan, Arizona Physician’s IPA, Great Lakes Health Plan, Health Plan of Nevada, Evercare, Share Advantage and AmeriChoice by UnitedHealthcare. Visit for more information.

1 Hunger and Food Insecurity in the U.S., Food Research and Action Center (2008). Retrieved from