01/29/14 — Child care center gets chance at new grant

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Child care center gets chance at new grant

By From staff reports
Published in News on January 29, 2014 1:46 PM

After first three years participating in Shape NC, the Wayne Community College Child Care Center is in line to receive another grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield, via the Wayne County Partnership for Children.

Begun three years ago with the first of now two $3 million grants, Shape NC is a statewide early childhood initiative focused on increasing the number of young children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight, improving access to healthy fruits and vegetables and increasing physical activities.

Across the state, 19 child care centers, took part in the effort.

And according to information from the North Carolina Partnership for Children, results have been positive.

• Trends have shown an increase in the percent of children in the program reaching a healthy weight.

• The percentage of children being provided with 90 or more minutes of physical activity every day rose from 51 percent to 85 percent.

• The percentage of children being provided fruit two or more times per day rose from 34 percent to 80 percent.

• The percentage of children being provided with vegetables two or more times per day rose from 32 percent to 60 percent.

• Each of the 19 centers also made improvements to outdoor learning environments.

In Wayne County, the Partnership for Children received $15,000, which it focused on education efforts and transforming the outside area at Wayne Community College.

Director Charlie Ivey explained that while he was not with the Partnership at the time, it was his understanding that the WCC Child Care Center had competed for the funding and was chosen based on its enthusiasm for the program.

He also said that a portion of the funds were used to help promote the importance of physical activity to parents at the Partnership's annual Born Learning Festival, held each spring at Herman Park.

In Wayne County's child care facilities, he said, about 16 percent of children under 5 years old are obese.

"That's an area of concern for us," he said.

But now he is hopeful that the new round of funding will allow the Partnership to extend the program to "one or two more facilities," and begin to bring that number down.

Phyllis Chesson, director of the WCC Child Care Center, also is hopeful that the new funding will allow them to continue to expand their efforts.

In the last three years, she said, the funds have allowed them to plant shade trees around the playground -- and install a shade structure while the trees grow -- as well as create a vegetable where the children can enjoy the fruits of their labors, planting plants and pulling weeds.

"They've been able to eat the vegetables here and take some home with them, and we've provided their parents with recipes," Ms. Chesson said. "It's been a good learning experience. They're very excited about it."

But beyond the learning, she said, it's also led to healthier students. While WCC didn't have a large obese population before the program, the increased focus on physical activity and the change in nutrition has helped to reduce those numbers even further.

"We had to transform our facility and our health has improved, as well as the overall health of our parents," she said.

Ivey said he hopes to know within the next month or two how much money the Partnership will receive and then begin to identify which facilities it will partner with next.