From the folks who brought you the Whole Grains Stamp (the official black and gold stamp of whole grain approval, christening select boxes of cereal, pasta, and the like nationwide), comes a fresh way to celebrate nourishing whole grains and charitable efforts to nourish communities. September being Whole Grains Month, the Whole Grains Council (WGC), an extension of Boston-based non-profit Oldways, is leading the festivities with their “Good Grains for a Good Cause” program. Anyone and everyone is welcome to participate in the program by nominating their favorite charities who work to tackle food insecurity--soup kitchens, food banks, community pantries, whoever is getting the job done--to win a helping hand in their efforts to combat hunger.

Nominations were opened on the WGC website August 15 and will remain open until September 30, 2013. The Whole Grains Council has already received over 60 nominations from 28 states (complete list here) and remains in awe as stories of selfless determination and unceasing love for community role in along with each nomination. At the end of September, one charity will be drawn at random to receive a mass collection of whole grain foods.

Cynthia Harriman, Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies Oldways / The Whole Grains Council says, “Every year we [the Whole Grains Council] try to do something different and creative to draw attention to Whole Grains Month. This year we put the emphasis on charity.” Harriman recognizes that while “it’s all well and good” to advise people to eat healthy, the fact of the matter is that nutritious food generally comes at a higher monetary cost. Thus, the WGC aims to recognize and reward those organizations who work to put healthy foods into the hands of individuals who would not have access to them otherwise. As an accompaniment to the “Good Grains for a Good Cause” program, the WGC is placing the spotlight on companies taking actions against hunger. Each day in September, the WGC will highlight a different company and their charitable work on the WGC website.

“You always hear about the big evil food corporations, but we work with food companies all day everyday… that’s where change happens,” says Harriman. “We want to pat those companies on the back for the charitable work they’re doing to encourage them and to inspire others.”

Although the WGC has developed a variety of other programs to celebrate Whole Grains Month in years past, such as photo contests and “deals of the day” for various whole grain products, the underlying goal each year remains the same: get people to pay attention to whole grains in a positive way. The WGC emphasizes that eating whole grains is not an all or nothing commitment--even a single daily serving can make a difference in one’s overall health. Harriman encourages people to try new things and consider different grains when shopping, explaining the importance of thinking about “intact” grains, such as barley and bulgur, along with products that include whole grains, like wheat bread and whole grain pasta.  Above all, it’s important to remember that making a switch to whole grain foods doesn’t mean embracing dietary restrictions; rather, taking steps to incorporate these and other nutritious options into meals are steps taken towards enjoying new flavors and creating a balanced lifestyle.

For those trying to up their whole grain intake, you can find a list of “baby steps” on the WGC website. And to join the “Good Grains for a Good Cause” conversation on Twitter, share your favorite charities that address food insecurity by using the hashtag #WholeGrainsMonth.