THE GEORGIA FARM TO EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION LEARNING COLLABORATIVE HAS SELECTED 18 CHILD CARE PROGRAMS TO PARTICIPATE IN ITS INAUGURAL “GROWING” SEASON

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Investment Enables Access to Healthier Food and Nutrition Education for Georgia’s Most Vulnerable Young Children 

ATLANTA (Jan. 29, 2018) – The Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative (GFTECELC), created in 2017 thanks to a $1.75 million grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, today announced it has chosen 18 early childhood education programs to participate in its upcoming launch. The GFTECELC is a multi-year initiative formed by the Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Partners to offer hands-on education in nutrition, cooking, gardening and promotion of local, fresh foods at early care centers in an effort to improve the quality of the child care program and increase access to fresh, local foods.

Close to 80 applications from early childhood education programs – including center-based child care programs, preschools, Head Start centers, and family child care learning homes – located in south metro Atlanta, and northwest and south Georgia, were evaluated before selecting the final participants. The child care programs selected for GFTECELC will receive up to $1,500 mini-grants, free resources and supplies, nutrition and food preparation training, professional development, program support and more.

“One of our goals is to ensure that all of Georgia’s children have the same successful start as early learners, which can’t happen if they are all not receiving consistent and healthy meals,” said Pam Tatum, president and chief executive officer for Quality Care for Children. “By helping these child care programs institute a farm to early childhood education (ECE) program we are enabling them to supplement the assistance many already receive from the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) while providing a better food service program that fuels the brains and bodies of children in their care.”

An orientation and training kick-off meeting for the GFTECELC members is being held on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Central Georgia Technical College in Macon. This meeting will provide all participating child care providers with a program overview including responsibilities, tools, and resources for beginning and sustaining their individual projects.

“We look forward to sharing resources with early care educators and the families they serve to teach nutrition through cooking, gardening activities and taste tests. These strategies expand access to fresh foods from local and organic farms,” said Georgia Organics’ Executive Director Alice Rolls.

According to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, one in four children in Georgia live in food insecure households. Often times these children receive the majority of their meals during the day from their child care provider. Through GFTECELC, these child care programs will be able to assist more families without relying on processed foods that often contribute to obesity.

“This program is a great example of what can happen when our public and private entities partner to solve problems. By working together to connect early care and agricultural communities we have the potential to substantially impact the health and development of children and families in these 18 child care centers and beyond,” said Erica Fener Slitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization.

 “It is exhilarating to partner with other organizations passionate about bringing the farm fresh movement to the early childhood sector. Dozens of volunteers and staff built a garden at our center a few years ago in honor of Jazmin Green, a toddler who died tragically, and the funding provided by the Kellogg Foundation will magnify the work we do surrounding our health and wellness initiatives. This will be a win not only for Clayton County, but a win for Georgia as we seek to make ripples across the state,” added Wande Okunoren-Meadows, Early Childhood Program Administrator of Little Ones Learning Center, a Quality Rated and National Association for the Education of Young Children Accredited center. 

The Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Partners, consisting of Georgia Organics, Little Ones Learning Center, Quality Care for Children, The Common Market, and Voices for Georgia’s Children, are committed to addressing root causes of Georgia’s food systems inequities as a means of creating viable food systems solutions that combat disparities existing among children and their families. The GFTECELC is a result of this partnership, and will engage state government agencies, community partners, and many others involved in the local food movement to create a sustainable program that will improve the lives of Georgia’s children, families and farmers.

“Many of Georgia’s lower income families live in food deserts,” said Lily Rolader, director at The Common Market Georgia, the nonprofit that will serve as the main distribution partner. “The GFTECELC will open up more opportunities for these families, children and staff to have local, fresh food supplied by our farmers and that they will grow for themselves.”

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About Georgia Organics
Georgia Organics is a member supported, non-profit organization with a mission to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. We strengthen Georgia communities by helping people make connections between the food they eat and where it comes from. Georgia Organics serves as the State Lead for the National Farm to School Network and launched Georgia’s first statewide farm to school program 10 years ago. We work closely with school district leaders, agriculture experts and state agencies to implement farm to school across Georgia, now serving over 1 million kids from every region and background. For more information, visit www.georgiaorganics.org.

About Little Ones Learning Center
Little Ones Learning Center is a Quality Rated and NAEYC accredited center. Since 1994, Little Ones Learning Center has provided more than high quality child care; Little Ones has served the community of Forest Park, Ga. and surrounding areas. The center exists to provide a holistic environment which is safe and developmentally appropriate for preschool and school age children. The center's focus is to provide a stimulating early care and education experience which promotes farm to early care and education and positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS) for each child's social/emotional, physical and cognitive development with a goal to lift each child's desire to be a life-long learner. For more information, visit http://www.littleoneslearningcenterga.com/?_rdr.

About Quality Care for Children:
Quality Care for Children (QCC) is Georgia’s leader in equipping parents and child care providers with the resources they need to receive and provide high quality, affordable child. The organization provides on-site consulting, training, business resources, and nutrition programs to child care programs and supports parents with a free referral service and tuition assistance for low-income families. Please visit www.QualityCareforChildren.org or call (404) 479-4181 for more information.

About The Common Market
The Common Market is a 501(c)3 nonprofit local food distributor with a mission to connect communities with good food from sustainable family farms. We strive to improve food security, farm viability, and community and ecological health. The Common Market was founded to empower, strengthen and connect two vulnerable populations: low income communities and local family farmers. The vision for The Common Market arose from the collective desire of "local-food" and "food-access" advocates to affect the distribution constraints of locally grown food, simultaneously improving the viability of local farms and the food security of vulnerable urban communities. Since launching in Georgia in 2016 we have connected over 30 producers with over 70 institutions and wholesale kitchens, bringing $400,000 of local and sustainable food to the Atlanta area. For more information, visit www.thecommonmarket.org.

About Voices for Georgia’s Children
Established in 2003, Voices for Georgia’s Children is a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization that envisions a Georgia where all children will thrive because they are safe, healthy, educated, connected to family and community, and prepared to be productive and responsible citizens.  Our mission is to promote equity, quality, and accessibility in systems created to serve children’s needs.  We are dedicated to advancing policies and implementation actions that ensure the best possible outcomes for children. For more information, visit www.georgiavoices.org.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.