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Ensuring Access to Healthy Food during a Child’s First Years
toddler holding an apple

Good nutrition is crucial during the rapid growth and development of early childhood. Yet structural racism has left far too many communities with limited access to healthy food and far too many children under five vulnerable to poor health, impaired learning and school readiness, and behavioral problems, as well as other issues associated with food insecurity during the early years.

Young children are struggling with food insecurity...

  • According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey (July, 2020), about 29 million adults — 12.1% of all adults in the country — reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days.
  • The rates were more than twice as high for Black and Latino respondents (21% for both groups) as for white respondents (8%).

And young children’s growing bodies need good food

  • The brain undergoes dramatic development during the early childhood years, building cognitive, social, and emotional capacity along with advancement in language and motor skills. [1], [2] According to the World Health Organization, “Early childhood is the most intensive period of brain development during the lifespan.  Adequate stimulation and nutrition are essential for development during the first three years of life.”[3]

Food insecurity in the early years can have an immediate and lasting impact….

  • Children living in households experiencing food insecurity are at greater risk of fair or poor health and hospitalizations, developmental delays, cognitive impairment, poor academic performance, abnormal weight and body mass index, and decreased social skills.

And the costs will still be felt decades later

  • Three of the five most costly adult diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression which cost $582b annually) are associated with early life adversity, like food insecurity, according to the American Heart Association.

All families want to give their children the best start and that includes being able to provide enough healthy food to fuel and nourish their children. Together, with policy-makers, healthcare providers, childcare centers, community-based organizations and other national and local partners, No Kid Hungry is committed to ensuring every child, regardless of zip code, has access to the healthy food they need to thrive. And, together with our Cooking Matters partners, we are empowering families with 0-5 year olds to stretch their food budgets and cook healthy meals.

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[1] Rosales F, Reznick J, and Zeisel S. Understanding the Role of Nutrition in the Brain and Behavioral Development of Toddlers and Preschool Children: Identifying and Overcoming Methodological Barriers. Nutr Neurosci. 2009 October ; 12(5): 190–202.

[2] Sakai KL. Language acquisition and brain development. Science 2005;310:815–9

[3] World Health Organization Fact Sheets: Early Child Development. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs332/en/.

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Research on Food Insecurity Among 0-5 Year Olds
breakfast distribution

No Kid Hungry and our Center for Best Practices regularly partner with researchers and other leaders to better understand and track the impact of food insecurity on young children and their families. Here are recent highlights:

  • April, 2021: Powerful new research from the Urban Institute gives voice to the stories and experiences of parents trying to feed their young kids during COVID. An eye opening and haunting read https://www.urban.org/research/publication/stories-hardship-families-young-children-covid-19-pandemic-persists
  • November, 2020: New research from both the Urban Institute and the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution confirms what many of us have feared since the COVID pandemic began: our babies and toddlers are going hungry at alarming rates.
    • The new research from the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution, released right before Thanksgiving, finds that in the month of October nearly one in 10 parents with children ages five and younger said their children did not have enough to eat and that they did not have enough money to buy food.
    • Similarly, new research from the Urban Institute finds that 22.9 percent of parents with children under the age of six faced hunger and hardship in the previous month. This could mean they did not have enough food and/or they had to make trade-offs, like choosing cheaper, less nutritious foods for their babies instead of fruit and vegetables.

WATCH: No Kid Hungry hosts a town hall on COVID-19's impact on hunger among kids ages 0-5

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An Innovative COVID-19 Response for Families with Young Children in Washington, D.C.
Erik prepping a meal w mask

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated long-standing systemic inequalities especially for families living East of the river in Washington, D.C. No Kid Hungry and the team of the Division of Community Pediatrics (DCP) at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital and Chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s Power of 10 Initiative responded to the community’s call for healthy prepared meals and groceries delivered safely to their door during this national emergency. Read more about how families enjoyed and benefited from this partnership in this microreport

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WIC innovations
children eating

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federal nutrition program that provides low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant women, postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 with healthy food and nutrition education. Yet, only 3 out of 5 eligible people participate in the program and participation drops significantly after a child turns one. Explore strategies for improving the WIC participant experience in order to overcome barriers to participation in the program.

WIC Online Grocery Ordering: A Click & Collect Model

For WIC participants, COVID-19 added additional barriers to an already challenging shopping experience. For WIC agencies, WIC vendors, and other stakeholders interested in improving access to WIC foods, this infographic describes a model for online grocery ordering that meets current federal regulations and makes it easier for program participants to redeem WIC benefits, during COVID-19 and beyond. We provide recommendations and identify issues to consider for those interested in implementing a similar model.

Infographic produced by the University of Tennessee, Department of Nutrition and No Kid Hungry. For more information, contact Betsy Anderson Steeves at eander24@utk.edu or Elyse Kovalsky at ekovalsky@strength.org

This infographic was funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Click & Collect pilot study was funded by No Kid Hungry.

This infographic is also available in Spanish. 

Innovations in WIC Clinic Redesign

WIC agencies and experts identify an improved clinic experience as an essential lever for increasing participation in the program. This innovation brief highlights learnings from two pilot projects that sought to improve the WIC clinic experience for women, children and families by redesigning their WIC clinic spaces.

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Early Childhood Grant Awards Announcement
girl with apple

With hunger rising in young children, No Kid Hungry invests $3 million in early-childhood organizations

“This funding will help ensure that more young kids have the food they need to grow and thrive,” says Caron Gremont, Director, Early Childhood, No Kid Hungry.

Contact: Adrienne Carter at acarter@strength.org 

4/6/21, Washington, DC: No Kid Hungry, a campaign from the national nonprofit Share Our Strength, will invest $3 million in grants to organizations focused on early childhood to help decrease food insecurity among children under the age of six.

At one point during the past year, 40 percent of parents of kids under six reported job or income loss related to the coronavirus pandemic. More than one in five parents reported food insecurity in their household. Early childhood is the most intensive period of brain and body development, and hunger and hardship at this age can have long-term implications for children.

“Food insecurity in the early years can have an immediate and lasting impact on overall health, learning, school readiness, and behavior,” says Caron Gremont, Director of Early Childhood for the No Kid Hungry campaign. “These flexible, year-long grants will help organizations provide healthy food to young kids and their families at this critical time.”

The No Kid Hungry grants will serve more than 120 early child care centers, healthcare providers and community organizations. These organizations work with an estimated 170,000 children under the age of five in 34 states and the District of Columbia, with 4 out of 5 working primarily in communities of color.

Not only are these organizations on the front lines of hunger, most are also led by members of the community. “These local leaders have a deep understanding of the families they serve and an authentic connection to the unique needs of their towns and neighborhoods,” says Gremont. “We are excited to help fuel their work and make sure more children have the food they need to grow and thrive.”

The following organizations were awarded a No Kid Hungry Early Childhood grant:  

  • Adrian Head Start at Drager (Adrian, Michigan)
  • African American Alzheimer's and Wellness (Columbus, Ohio)
  • AfriThrive Inc (Silver Spring, Maryland)
  • Arab American Family Support Center (Brooklyn, New York)
  • Asylee Women Enterprise, Inc. (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Autumn Leaf Academy (Plant City, Florida)
  • BOLD Ministries (Conyers, Georgia)
  • Boston Community Pediatrics (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Boulder County Farmers Markets (Boulder, Colorado)
  • Bowdoin Street Health Center (Dorchester, Massachusetts)
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • BTM Centers for Excellence (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Busy Bee’s Early Learning Center (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Busy Bee's Child Development Center (Toppenish, Washington)
  • California Hospital Medical Center Foundation (Los Angeles, California)
  • Capital District YMCA (Schenectady/ Troy, New York)
  • Caribbean Community Connection of Orlando, Inc. (Winter Park, Florida)
  • Catherine McAuley Center (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
  • Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (Oakland, California)
  • Chatham Public School (Angoon, Alaska)
  • CHI Health Schuyler (Omaha, Nebraska)
  • Chicago Commons Association (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Child Parent Centers, Head Start (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Children's College Foundation (Slidell, Louisiana)
  • Children's Council of San Francisco (San Francisco, California)
  • Children's Hospital Foundation (Louisville, Kentucky)
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • Children's Mercy Hospital (Kansas City, Missouri)
  • City of Lynn (Lynn, Massachusetts)
  • Community Foundation of Greater Flint (Flint, Michigan)
  • Community Services of Broomfield (dba Broomfield FISH) (Broomfield, Colorado)
  • Cooper University Health Care (Camden, New Jersey)
  • Coralville Community Food Pantry (Coralville, Iowa)
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension - Tompkins County (Ithaca, New York)
  • Crim Fitness Foundation (Flint, Michigan)
  • Cuyama Valley Family Resource Center (New Cuyama, California)
  • Dominican Women's Development Center - Healthy Families Washington Heights (New York, New York)
  • Early Learning Coalition of Duval (Jacksonville, Florida)
  • East Hawaii Independent Physicians Association (EHI IPA) (Hilo, Hawaii)
  • Educare California at Silicon Valley (San Jose, California)
  • El Pueblo NOLA-Nola Village (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Families First in Cabarrus County, Inc. (Concord, North Carolina)
  • Family Building Blocks (Salem, Oregon)
  • Family Support Services of North Florida, Inc. (Jacksonville, Florida)
  • Food is Free Solano (Benicia, California)
  • Food Research and Action Center (Washington, DC)
  • Greenleaf Community Farms (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Hands Together for Haitians, Inc. (N Palm Beach, Florida)
  • Housing Services of Kansas City (Kansas City, Missouri)
  • Hurley Foundation (Flint, Michigan)
  • Inheritance, Inc (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • International Rescue Committee (Tucson, Arizona)
  • James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Virginia)
  • Janet S. Munt Family Room (Burlington, Vermont)
  • Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial, Inc. (Yonkers, New York)
  • Kiddie Kamp Inc (Farmington, New Mexico)
  • Kids' Meals, Inc. (Houston, Texas)
  • KinderCare Education LLC (Portland, Oregon)
  • Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, Inc. (Bronx, New York)
  • La Crosse County Health Department: WIC Program (La Crosse, Wisconsin)
  • Lakeland Family Resource Center (Spooner, Wisconsin)
  • Legacy Health Foundation (Portland, Oregon)
  • Life Women’s Foundation INC (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
  • Manna House, Inc. (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care, Inc. (Washington, DC)
  • MEL Center Inc (Camden, New Jersey)
  • Met Cares Foundation (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
  • Mid Florida Community Services Head Start Early Head Start (Brooksville, Florida)
  • Missouri Southern State University (Joplin, Missouri)
  • Mitchell Learning Academy, LLC (Jacksonville, Florida)
  • Mountaineer Food Bank (Gassaway, West Virginia)
  • Multicultural Child and Family Hope Center (Tacoma, Washington)
  • Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative (Omaha, Nebraska)
  • Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County (Iowa City, Iowa)
  • New Mexico Child First Network (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
  • New Mexico Department of Health (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
  • New York-Presbyterian Hospital (New York, New York)
  • NWI Food Council (Crown Point, Indiana)
  • Odyssey Family Executive Center of South Norwalk (Norwalk, Connecticut)
  • Operation Food Search (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • Orange County Head Start, Inc. (Santa Ana, California)
  • Parkview Hospital, Inc. (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
  • Partnership Academy (Richfield, Minnesota)
  • Phoenix Dream Center (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Pike County Health Department (Pikeville, Kentucky)
  • PORCH-Durham (Durham, North Carolina)
  • Presbyterian Healthcare Services (Alburquerque, New Mexico)
  • Proyecto Pastoral (Los Angeles, California)
  • REAP Food Group (Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Refugee Dream Center (Providence, Rhode Island)
  • Saint Jemuel Group Family DayCare (Bronx, New York)
  • SAL Family and Community Services (Moline, Illinois)
  • Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund (Los Angeles, California)
  • Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services (New York, New York)
  • Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York)
  • SOS Community Services (Ypsilanti, Michigan)
  • Southern Illinois Hospital Services (Carbondale, Illinois)
  • St. Eulalia Church dba Quinn Center of St. Eulalia (Maywood, Illinois)
  • STEPS to Success Holistic Center (Louisville, Kentucky)
  • Sunset Park Health Council Inc. dba Family Health Centers at NYU Langone (Brooklyn, New York)
  • The Cambodian Family (Santa Ana, California)
  • The Community Builders (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • The Food Trust (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • The Foundation for Delaware County (Media, Pennsylvania)
  • The Fresno Center (Fresno, California)
  • The Gleaning Network of Texas dba GROW North Texas (Dallas, Texas)
  • The Hunger and Health Coalition (Boone, North Carolina)
  • The Little Village (Aurora, Colorado)
  • The Salvation Army, A California Corp. (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Three Virtues Organization, Inc (Homestead - Miami Dade, Florida)
  • United Somali Bantu of Greater Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • United Way of Tri-County (Framingham, Massachusetts)
  • University of Kentucky (Lexington, Kentucky)
  • US Committee for Refugees & Immigrants (USCRI) (Albany, New York, Erie, Pennsylvania)
  • Venice Family Clinic (Venice, California)
  • Vouchers 4 Veggies (San Francisco, California)
  • Wake Forest University Health Sciences (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
  • Walnut Hill Community Church (Bethel, Connecticut)
  • Waupaca County WIC Program (Waupaca, Wisconsin)
  • Wayne Children's Healthcare Access Program (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Winooski Mutual Aid (Essex Junction, Vermont)
  • Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation (Bronx, New York)
  • World Relief Seattle (Kent, Washington)
  • Young Men’s Christian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia)