Funding For Early-Childhood Education Declined From 2009 To 2010

Funding for early-childhood education declined between 2009 and 2010, even as the Obama administration urged states to increase pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, according to a study released earlier this week by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Total state funding for such programs declined by $30 million nationwide as states scrambled to make up for budget shortfalls, according to the the Institute, based at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.

As reported here by the Washington Post,  the study also states that “Overall, state cuts to pre-K transformed the recession into a depression for many young children.” You can read or download a PDF of The State of Preschool 2010 report here.

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Put Your (Membership) Money Where Your Advocacy Is

We’ve written about them a lot, but this is important: The major objective of the citizen-led, non-partisan Children’s Movement of Florida is to inform political, business and civic leaders, and the parents and people of this state, that the well-being and education of our children in Florida must be the highest priority of government, business, non-profit institutions and families – and to encourage them to make the well-being and education of our children our highest priority, including in the way we invest our public resources.

We buy into that. And now you can step up and participate in their membership campaign, and help support their efforts. You can join by making a donation (of any amount, but don’t be shy – it’s the kids we are talking about here!) via this link.

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Goya Foods Steps Up, Donates 1 Million Pounds Of Food

On March 16, Goya Foods donated 1,000,000 pounds of Goya food products to emergency food providers in communities across the country.

Goya joins an ever-increasing cadre of food-related companies embracing a higher sense of social responsibility by giving back to the communities they serve and supporting the fight for better nutrition and hunger relief. (Folks like Tyson Foods, ConAgra, Sysco, and Whole Foods Market immediately come to mind).

Goya’s donation of food to soup kitchens and food pantries across the country was in celebration of their 75th anniversary. Now they’ve also launched the Goya Gives campaign, in partnership with United Way, to encourage people to join in the fight against hunger and promote better nutrition through social media.

So join the Goya party. Check out the campaign via the links above.

For 75 days, from March 16th to May 29th, the public can, via the Goya Gives website, contribute recipes, photos and stories of sharing low-cost, nutritious meals with friends or neighbors in need. And in an inspired bit of “community building,” participants can also share via the web site their “Goya Gives” status with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.  In addition, the public can make direct monetary donations to United Way to help fund the organization’s mission to prevent hunger and promote better nutrition in communities across America.

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Ex-Legislator Dick Batchelor Speaks Out Against Cuts In Services

Dick Batchelor, a respected former Legislator and Florida Impact Board Member speaks out at a recent rally for Floridians who are at risk of losing what little support they now have, thanks to a heartless Florida Legislature more worried about saggy pants than protecting our most vulnerable citizens.

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FRAC’S Grassroots Tool Kit – Take Action

(via FRAC) The Food Research and Action Center is providing several tools to enable individuals and organizations to share their views with the USDA on what children need in school nutrition. Links to their resource material are listed below. NOTE that all comments must be submitted to the USDA by April 16, 2011.

1. Action Alert (pdf)
2. Sample brief letter with a link to USDA
3. Sample tweets and facebook status updates (pdf)

If you need more information on how to make comments and get others to do so, you can also contact Betsy Edwards of the FRAC staff via email at bedwards@frac.org.

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Florida Impact Rallies Support for “Healthy Schools for Healthy Lives” Act

Florida Impact, the state’s leading legislative public policy advocacy organization, has made passage of the Healthy Schools for Healthy Lives Act their highest legislative priority in this year’s legislative session. The Act transfers Florida’s school and summer nutrition programs from the Department of Education to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

This move would expand access to locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables through school programs (meaning more access for children who come from Florida’s steadily growing number of struggling families that are unable to afford healthy eating options).

It would also bring a vigorous approach to implementing and managing federal child nutrition programs, enabling schools and summer meal providers to more effectively reach Florida’s students with the valuable lessons and practices of healthy eating. A link to a PDF of the detailed briefing paper prepared by Impact on the Act can be found here.

The Tallahassee Democrat recently published an editorial in support of the Act. You can access for viewing or downloading a PDF of the editorial here.

You can also add your voice to support the bill by signing up via Florida Impact’s advocacy link here.  And in the short term, you can also call Representative Bill Proctor, Chair of the House Education Committee, @ 850-488-2977 and urge him to place the House version of the Healthy Schools for Healthy Lives Act (HB7219) on the House Education Committee’s agenda for the week of April 11th!

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USDA Pilot Program For School Universal Meal Service

The USDA has announced a pilot program for a Universal Meal Service option to boost school meal participation in high-poverty areas.

Ten states were selected as finalists to participate in an innovative universal free meal service option designed to make it easier for low-income children to receive meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The Community Eligibility Option will allow schools in high-poverty areas to provide free breakfasts and lunch to all students, using preexisting data to determine the eligibility of kids to receive free nutrition assistance.

The Community Eligibility Option is among the early reforms enacted as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010.

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