Last month, Voices for Healthy Kids brought together advocates of Early Childhood Education (ECE) to dive into the science, messaging, and best practice campaign approaches for advancing healthy eating, physical activity, and decreased screen time in ECE.
Here are a few snapshots of what was discussed and how out-of-school time (OST) advocates can take the next steps for advancing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) state-level policy:
Leveraging the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP)
The US Department of Agriculture has updated the CACFP to ensure children and adults have access to healthy, balanced meals throughout the day. These revised meal patterns include a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and less added sugar and saturated fat. The CACFP may be able to reimburse participating organizations up to $1,400 annually per child!
Next steps: Contact your state agency to check your organization’s eligibility for participation. If you are already participating, use this flyer to help promote and educate non-participating childcare centers about the benefits of CACFP.
Choosing a legislative or regulatory path
Carrie Glover, policy consultant at the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, and Jessica Mahon, campaign coordinator at American Heart Association, spoke on their legislative and regulatory experiences. A legislative policy campaign should focus on creating law at the national level and can be accomplished in less than a year, whereas a regulatory policy campaign will enact the law at the local level and will need a longer timeline.
Next steps: When choosing the legislative or regulatory policy route, consider the campaign’s timeline and objective and be prepared for opposition. Being able to make the case for each objective with a cost-benefit analysis and recognizing the agencies, organizations, and people who are doing the work will be crucial for acceptance of any policy.
Making the most of grassroots advocacy
Grassroots are a critical component of advancing HEPA policy campaigns. When cultivating family and community providers as campaign leaders, it is important to recruit, educate, and value advocates along the entire campaign path, not just at the end.
Next step: Allyson Frazier of Voices for Healthy Kids highlighted three key elements to consider when using grassroots advocates in your campaign: recruiting the right advocates, educating and engaging your network, and recognizing volunteer contributions.
Balancing objective and budget
Tim Vaske, state and community advocacy manager at Voices for Healthy Kids, talked about the necessity of funding for campaign success and addressed a common issue: when facing the challenge of sourcing and acquiring funding a campaign, campaigners themselves can forget the overall objective.
Next steps: Fit your campaign to your budget. Ask yourself what you would do if you had all the money and resources you need to advance a wildly successful HEPA Policy campaign, then scale back to your main priorities.
Expanding foreign-born families’ access to quality care
Leah Muse-Orlinoff, director of New Americans Integration Institute of the Massachusetts Immigration & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, narrated the complicated and confusing path a refugee family must complete in just 15 days after entering the country in order to access quality ECE. The hurdles to accessing this care make it difficult and unlikely that refugee children will reap the benefits. According to an Urban Institute, 2002 National Survey of America’s Families, one-third of vulnerable youth with at least one foreign-born parent are not accessing the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity before they are three years old.
Next steps: The experiences of refugee and immigrant families demonstrate the glaring disparity of access to quality care for all children. When developing a practical approach to equity, Cesar Hernandez, senior organizer for Center for Community Change, highlights four main points from the AMOS Project in Cincinnati to keep in mind:
- Respect Every Child: Provide children of all races and economic backgrounds equal access to the best OST.
- Racial Equity: Begin with black and brown children to ensure funding and resources directly address the racial disparities in our regions.
- Only Good Jobs: Guarantee that every “care” job is a good job for workers.
- Family Voices at the Center: Providers must proactively engage and support the families of children being served.
Reduce preemption hurdles
Preemption, when a higher level of government limits or eliminates lower level regulation, has a profound effect on public health. Lucy Culp, state and community advocacy advisor at American Heart Association, discussed two types of preemption that create obstacles for the advancement of HEPA policy: express and implied preemption.
Next steps: Change Lab Solutions and William Mitchell Public Law Center have outlined language that symbolizes preemptive intent. Use these tools to minimize preemption obstacles as you are starting or continuing to advance HEPA policy in OST.
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