Nourish America, an Ojai-based national nonprofit organization committed to improving the health status of impoverished children, seniors and adults by providing nourishing foods and vitamin supplements, has announced a new nationwide initiative, “Strengthening Our Next Generation.”

Michael Morton, Nourish America’s executive director, said a growing body of research confirms the health of America’s children is degenerating, “endangering not only the lives of our children but our nation’s future.”

Strengthening Our Next Generation’s efforts will focus first on poor and hungry children and will include these programs:

• Healthy Moms and Babies. To provide low-income pregnant mothers-to-be the prenatal multivitamin support they need to assure a healthy pregnancy and healthy babies at birth.

• Children First. To provide nourishing foods and supplements to help low-income children thrive at school and in life.

• Teen Support. To supply teenagers with nutrients to support healthy growth, emotional balance and success.

• Jump Start PE. Providing micro-grants to support quality, daily physical education programs in the nation’s schools.

“Many people are simply stunned when they learn that 12.4 million children in this country experience hunger and do not have their daily nutritional needs met,” Morton said.

According to the Agriculture Department and studies by UNICEF, of the estimated 35 million Americans suffering from undernourishment, 12.4 million are children. Public health officials and educators have stated conclusively that hungry children are more likely to be ill and absent from school, and typically suffer from 200 percent to 400 percent more health problems, including weight loss, fatigue and poor performance in school, compared to families with adequate food and nutrition.

“The facts are stark; millions of children and adults in the United States live in homes without sufficient food to eat,” Morton said. “However, with the help of concerned private citizens and corporate donors, together we can address this problem directly to produce tangible results.”

Founded in 1999, Nourish America serves daily multivitamins and nourishing foods to almost 30,000 low-income children in California and 38 other states. The children receive the vitamins and food from hundreds of organizations, schools and agencies that help serve those in need.