Since 2003, Voices for Georgia’s Children, or Voices, has advocated for Georgia’s children to have a voice in the policies and laws that impact their well-being. Voices promotes equity, quality and accessibility in the systems created to serve children’s needs. Voices is dedicated to advancing policies and implementation actions that ensure the best possible outcomes for children. In order to accomplish its vision of a Georgia where all children thrive because they are safe, healthy, educated, connected to family and community and prepared to be productive and responsible citizens, Voices serves as a data-driven, unbiased source of research, analysis and connection for policy makers.
Currently, Voices is actively engaged in a collaborative initiative to connect children and early care and education centers to their local agricultural community to support the local economy and enhance student learning. Research suggests that children are more prepared to learn when they have access to nutritious, culturally appropriate food.
Known as the Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative, Voices, along with The Common Market Georgia, Georgia Organics, Little Ones Learning Center and Quality Care for Children, aims to improve the health and education outcomes of children in early care and education settings through increased consumption of and interaction with local, healthy foods. Through work with partners and select early care and education sites across Georgia, Voices seeks to identify policy barriers and solutions that could facilitate a statewide, replicable model of Farm to Early Care and Education.
“It’s crucial that children in our child care centers have access to healthy and nutritious food to fuel their growing minds,” said Executive Director Erica Fener Sitkoff . “Whether they’re in a childcare center, a family child care center, or a center at a public school, we want to find ways for more children to eat what their local farmers are growing.”
The Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative is also guided by racial equity, as Voices and its partners are focused on supporting policies and practices that reduce existing racial disparities in health, education and food access. In order to create lasting change for children and communities in Georgia, efforts connecting early care and agriculture must address systemic barriers in adequate nutrition access for young learners.
“This initiative is a great example of what can happen when our public and private entities partner to solve problems,” said Sitkoff. “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 early child care settings across Georgia.”
Voices is also collaborating with partners to align the Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative with efforts to understand how the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program can increase access to healthy foods for young children. In addition, Voices organizes Georgia Pre-K Week every year, which highlights the importance of quality early education by connecting legislators and leaders with their local Pre-K programs.
To learn more about Voices for Georgia’s Children, visit http://georgiavoices.org/.