Nearly 1 in 3 children in the United States is overweight or obese, putting them at risk for serious health problems. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets as well as physical activity resources including parks, green spaces, and recreational facilities, making it difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle.
These factors alone make low-income children and families more susceptible to obesity. The Venom Foundation has made a promise to combat this harsh reality.
The Venom Foundation is a community based non-profit organization committed to providing assistance to underprivileged youth through fitness, health, and nutrition in Leon and Gadsden County. Venom, named after the FAMU Mascot, was incorporated in 2011.
The foundation is committed to providing assistance through educational mentoring and outdoor recreational activities such as tennis, while offering health and nutritional workshops in a safe, clean, and inviting environment.
The organization’s programs are made possible through local grants, donations from individual donors, and corporations.
FAMU alumnus and executive director, Jerrell Lowery, elaborated on how the foundation was started as a fundraiser for FAMU’s Developmental Research School (DRS).
“We wanted to get DRS involved in tennis, because they didn’t have a team, but working with the administration, it never materialized,” Lowery said. “We then decided to turn Venom into a community based organization to serve the underprivileged kids with nutrition and fitness education, using tennis as our medium.”
The Venom Foundation incorporates members from FAMU’s men and women tennis team. Those members serve as volunteers and mentors, assisting the youth in the tennis program.
“Since the start of the organization, programs have remained active three days a week,” said Lowery.
The tennis program practices on the campus of FAMU.
The organization hopes to help increase the participation in the tennis program; allowing students to receive a scholarship at a university, ensuring their growth and well-being.
Tallahassee resident, Billie Rashundra, is one of the local parents whose child is benefiting from the foundation.
“Tennis is not a likable sport, but the foundation has made it fun for my son. He has been a part of the tennis program for 2 years, aspiring to continue as he gets older,” said Rashundra.
The foundation also emphasizes the importance of nutrition education to promote healthy lifestyles and combat obesity.
Through the nutrition aspect of the program, the foundation provides classes and sends out information about recipes and their nutritional value. The foundation has also posted information in regard to nutrition on their website.
Lenin Mongerie, tennis instructor and President of the Venom Foundation, spoke on the challenges of maintaining the organization. “The biggest challenge that we face with the foundation is the lack of participation from people in the community, and retaining those people who do decide to get involved in the organization,” Mongerie said.
The foundation hopes to get more members of the Tallahassee community involved and to maintain its pre-existing members.
All of the services that the organization offers are free of charge to anyone in the community.
For more information about the Venom Foundation, go to www.venomfoundationinc.org or contact Jewell Lowry at (850)-508-8829.