by Steve McCrossan, Executive Director
If you’ve met me, I hope you have heard me speak about NourishNC’s (NNC) vision to provide nutritious food “anywhere and everywhere” food insecure kids need it in our community. Our board and staff take this vision quite literally. We do so because this vision inspires and invigorates us. It demands more of us. It forces us to think differently and to question the dusty and often uninspired ways we fight food insecurity.
Our current programs reach children in their schools, at other nonprofits, doctor’s offices, community centers, after-school programs, and on the playgrounds in their neighborhoods. What’s missing from this list is a program that specifically targets children ages 1-4. Not anymore! Enter our new “Toddler Tummies” program. Toddler Tummies puts nutritious food right into the bellies of children who need it most and delivers it right into their homes! Before I go into more detail, let’s talk about why this is so important.
Research has consistently shown that the first 2,000 days of a child’s development are tied to a lifetime of outcomes. For optimal development and a strong foundation, children need good health, strong families, and high-quality early learning and school experiences. NourishNC will now be part of an ecosystem that provides one piece of this crucial formula-food.
NNC is currently piloting the Toddler Tummies program by partnering with Coastal Horizon’s “Child First” and Smart Start’s “Parents as Teachers” programs. The Child First intervention addresses the highest risk children birth to 5 years of age right inside their homes. The goal is to decrease stress within the family, increase stability, and support the development of healthy, nurturing, protective relationships. This program serves children with difficult behaviors, delays in their development or learning such as anger and fighting, risk of being expelled from childcare, sadness, or painful experiences. The families themselves are often dealing with homelessness, not enough money for food or rent, or involvement with the child welfare system.
Smart Start’s “Parents as Teachers” is an evidence based, in-home visiting program. The program works with a diverse set of families that may have one or more risk factors related to income, high stress situation, isolation, etc. Through home visits and monthly group connection meetings, Parents as Teachers staff provide families with information on child development and parenting to promote child language, intellectual growth, and physical and social-emotional skills. In other words, Smart Start and Coastal Horizons serve the kids in our community who need the most help.
Access to high quality food is intimately intertwined with a child’s future outcomes. As a part of NNC’s larger strategy to fight child hunger, Toddler Tummies will help interrupt, eliminate, and/or prevent food insecurity and its disastrous consequences for children. Our approach is driven by overwhelming research on the effects of child food insecurity, Maslowian needs, and common sense. If our community’s children are to reach higher levels of health and wellness, then we must meet their most basic needs first. Our goal is to address these children’s unmet physiological needs so our wonderful partners can more effectively build strong, healthy, and happy children. Let me share with you one such happy child as told by Jessica Canavan, MSW, LCSW, Child First Clinical Supervisor at Coastal Horizons Center, Inc.
“Each family has had their own individual reaction, but the themes of family responses have been from deep relief from their worries about meals to big-time excitement. When I brought a meal box to one of the families I personally work with, I watched the little girl open the box and take each item out. She carefully showed each item to her mom, and kept repeating: ‘for me! for me!’ What was amazing about this experience is this child has an expressive language delay, and very rarely uses the two and three word phrases that would be typical of her development. It was a delight to see her and her mom share in opening the box and hear her use express her happiness with words!”
Your donations are what makes this type of “deep relief” and “big time excitement” possible. Thank you for helping NourishNC build happy and healthy kids!
Update: We are elated and honored to announce that NourishNC has been awarded a generous grant from the Women’s Impact Network (WIN) to fund this program in the 2019-20 school year! Stay tuned for more info.