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Monthly Archives: April 2015

CACFP Comment Deadline Extended!

CACFP_RevisedExciting things in the world of the Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) – the deadline to comment on the UDSA’s revised meal pattern proposed rule has been EXTENDED… through May 27! This means you have another month to make your voice heard. If you are having difficulty with the letter format, there are great resources available on http://www.cacfpmealpatterns.com/! From sample letters, to talking points, to fun social media images for sharing, cacfpmealpatterns.com has everything you need to become informed on this important proposed rule.
BTWIC Comment Letter- CACFP Proposed Rule 2015-2

In case that isn’t enough for you, here is a list of blog posts WE have made about CACFP, and don’t forget the great resources on www.btwic.org! For the last three years, we have been examining the topic of early childhood nutrition through our Eating to Learn initiative, and our “About CACFP” page is packed with additional resources (including informational flyers for parents and providers in English and Spanish).

Our CACFP Proposed Rule letter is to the left – you can click on the image to open it as a PDF. We chose to highlight some “wins”(inclusion of more fruits and whole grains in the meals and snacks served as part of this program), as well as mentioning some areas that could be improved (greater technical assistance). Perhaps most importantly, we took the opportunity to urge the USDA to develop measures of accountability for state administrators for CACFP outreach, to help ensure that providers know about the benefits they could obtain through this program.

Please feel free to use our letter as a model, or just sign on via cacfpmealpatterns.com! However you do it, make sure that you have your say. The USDA is required to read and review each and every letter. Your opinion is important, and your voice matters! Add your comments today.

 

 

Push for the House Budget

It is now budget season in Massachusetts, and the House Ways & Means has released their first pass. The Department of Early Education and Care is currently earmarked to receive:

  • $5 million for a Quality Care Rate Reserve for early education providers, to support and attract the highest quality educators,
  • an additional $3 million for the Quality Rating and Improvement System, to support and enhance the quality of care being delivered, and
  • $5 million for new child care vouchers, which would move over 800 children off the waiting list.

These numbers are a good start, but we must work to do more. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, years of “level funding” (funding a department or initiative at the previous year’s level, without adjusting for inflation) has effectively reduced the state’s contribution to the Department of Early Education and Care by 50%, or over $100 million, between 2001 and 2012.

There are two budget amendments that we at BTWIC,  along with our colleagues in the Put MA Kids First coalition, are supporting. The first is Amendment #579, offered by Representative Scibak of South Hadley. This amendment deals with the Early Education and School Age Rate Reserve, increasing the total amount to $15.2M. The second is Amendment #1069, offered by Representative Danielle W. Gregoire of Marlboro, which calls to increase the total allocation to $21M dollars while increasing the QRIS earmark to $4M. Rep. Gregoire has also called for clarifying language regarding a variety of improvement measures in the Quality Rating and Improvement System.

Please take action today – call your legislator and urge them to cosponsor these two amendments on behalf of the children of our Commonwealth and the educators who support them. If you need assistance finding your legislator, visit https://malegislature.gov/People/Search. Speaker DeLeo needs ALL of us to help him Put MA Kids First!

Early Education and School Age Provider Lobby Day

April 8, 2015 was an incredible morning at the Massachusetts State House, when over 500 Put MA Kids First Coalition members, and their advocates, gathered in Gardner Auditorium for Early Education and School Age Provider Lobby Day.

BTWIC_Gardner-Auditorium

We were very grateful to Speaker Robert DeLeo for his opening words. A longtime supporter of providers and the children in their care, he called for all of us to help him in the fight to fund the education continuum. Speaker DeLeo is a strong and steadfast ally, but he can’t do it alone.

BTWIC_Speaker_DeLeo

Our President and CEO, Marie St. Fleur, lit up the crowd with an energetic rallying speech. She got a standing ovation!

BTWIC_Marie-StFleur

Commissioner Tom Weber took time out of his day to be with us, as did Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz. Both are impassioned supporters of early education across the Commonwealth.

BTWIC_Tom-Weber

BTWIC_Sonia-Chang-Diaz

Let’s all bear their words in mind – do not let up the pressure on your legislators! Keep this energy moving! See all the photos on our Facebook page:

BTWIC_Facebook-LobbyDay

Serve and Return: Early Childhood Education and the Developing Brain

We were not entirely surprised by the results of a recent study on income inequality and brain function, but the message is startling.

Harvard Center on the Developing Child tells us that in the first years of life, 700 neural connections are formed every second. Those connections work to make up who we are and how we interact with the world. The brain’s capacity for change slows as we age – this is why grown adults have to work harder to learn a new language – but during the early years, a “serve and return” model governs this rapid growth. Children require interaction with attentive caregivers, and seek it out through their actions (babbling, facial expressions, etc). If a caregiver responds appropriately, a positive connection is formed. If the child is reacted to in a negative way, or simply ignored, the connection is disrupted.

In families experiencing daily stress, such as stress related to living in poverty, children are at risk for developmental delays—delays that can manifest as early as 9 months of age and can impact academic achievement and behavior through adulthood. Since most of the human brain is formed during the first three years of life, high-quality care is a “must” from the very beginning of life, and we must do better to deliver it.

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