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Grant funds to help provide fresh food for day care centers

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Aidil Ortiz of the Kate B. Reynolds presents check to DEPC Executive Director Henrietta Zalkind.

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From Staff Reports

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Down East Partnership for Children recently received a grant to increase the amount of fresh, local food in daily meals at child care centers in Nash and Edgecombe counties from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust through its trademark program, Healthy Places NC.

Launched in 2012, Healthy Places NC is the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust’s signature program to improve the health and overall quality of life for people in rural North Carolina. The goal is to have a real impact on major health challenges for the long term.

The grant will provide $165,000 each year for three years to help bring healthier food choices to young children and help child care center staff learn how to secure fresh food and prepare it in a cost-effective manner. The plan is to develop a model that can be replicated among other child care centers.

“We are excited about this opportunity to impact the health of young children in our community,” DEPC Executive Director Henrietta Zalkind said. “Ultimately, we want the healthiest choice of food to be the easiest choice to purchase. That is not always the case. A big challenge is how to make the purchase and delivery of fresh, healthy food easy.”

The partnership will connect with farmers and local organizations who already prepare and purchase local food to work with select child care centers on the purchasing and planning of their daily menus. There will also be food demonstrations, cooking classes and gardening support. The overall goal is to create a system in which incorporating healthy foods on a daily basis is a way of life for child care centers.

“Our hope is to impact the local economy by supporting local farmers, impacting the health of our community and changing the future of the children we serve,” Zalkind said. “The number of children who have Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, and that is a trend we need to reverse.”

Edgecombe County ranks 98th and Nash County ranks 66th in health outcomes in the state.

“It is important to get healthy food habits started at an early age,” said Sydney Phillips, DEPC healthy kids coordinator. “Too many children are obese or overweight, and healthy foods are not always readily available. If we can introduce more healthy foods when children are young — and children learn to love eating fresh, healthy foods every day — it can make a difference for a lifetime.

“At the end of this three-year project, we want to see a systems change in the purchasing, menu and preparation of foods at child care centers and that kids are eating fresh, healthy food every day.”

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