10/21/11 — Child care program gets grant

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Child care program gets grant

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 21, 2011 1:46 PM

The child care center at Wayne Community College has been chosen a Model Early Learning Center, and will serve as a prototype for other centers around the county in promoting exercise and better nutrition among the preschool set.

The $13,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, which runs through June 2013, was awarded to The Partnership for Children of Wayne County.

"We selected WCC child care center and then we were selected for the grant," said Charles Ivey, executive director of The Partnership. "We're one of 10 (partnerships) this year and I believe that there were 20-some applicants in the system.

"The major job is establishment of a model early learning child care center," he said. "That encompasses good nutrition and increased physical activity for preschools."

Lee Mitchell-Lee, program specialist at The Partnership, will oversee the program, which will include staff and parents visiting N.C. State University to create a blueprint for a natural learning environment.

The WCC site was an ideal candidate, said Valerie Wallace, early care and education director, since it has an established playground and is set up to offer trainings.

From making menu and policy changes to involving parents in the trainings, the hope now is to expand efforts that will benefit other facilities throughout the area.

"We work with all the child care centers in Wayne County so we're looking at things that they can do to be more environmentally (beneficial), promote physical activities," she said. "We'll take time over there (at WCC) -- this is what you're doing, how are you incorporating this physically? We hope even when the grant period's over, to continue this."

Childhood obesity is a nationwide concern, she said, and a big reason such efforts are needed.

"I think North Carolina is 11th in the country, as having the highest obesity rate," she said. "But it's a community issue, and (child care is) where children spend a large part of their day."

Wayne County's numbers are in the line with the state average, said Ivey, with an estimated 15.9 percent of 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds being overweight.

"Between the use of fast food to the preponderance of screen time -- videos, computers, TV -- we're creating a generation of overweight folks," Ivey said.

Partnership officials say they have already had good response from agencies willing to coordinate efforts and want to see that enthusiasm spread and take root in the community.

"Whether it be through Cooperative Extension because of their vast knowledge in agriculture, Parks and Recreation we're hoping will come on board with this," Ms. Wallace said. "We're hoping to get more folks involved and see that it's not just an issue within early childhood -- it's a community lifestyle."