Every year Clayton Early Learning celebrates the diverse cultures of our staff, students, and families in our schools and home based programs with our annual Culture Night. This year’s event will be on December 16th and the central theme of the event is food with a focus on traditional recipes submitted by our community. The five course tasting while occur in various classrooms and gives Clayton families and staff the opportunity to come together to explore the culture and journeys of those around us.
Food intersects between all things culture, and each culture tells a story of history, struggle and progress. “Food is our common ground, a universal experience” said James Beard, an American cookbook author and columnist. This year the tables at Culture Night will have cards with conversation starters to prompt discussion about what food means for our own families and ways food links cultures. Some of these questions listed below you can also use with your own families during the holidays:
- Where does this dish come from?
- What makes this dish important to your family?
- When do you typically eat this dish?
- Was this dish passed down by someone in your family, or is it new?
- What dishes do you look forward to eating the most around the holidays?
Clayton Early Learning is an inclusive school that places a strong emphasis on diversity. We see differences as an opportunity for growth and learning and Culture Night proves one way to create this honorable space. By modeling this for children, we give them another way to get that head start to success in the future in an increasingly diverse world. Cesar Chavez said, “if you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”
We look forward to eating with you on December 16th from 4:30-6:30pm!
As Clayton celebrates National Nutrition Month this March and all the ways we promote healthy lifestyles to our children and families on a daily basis, we also seek to acknowledge the challenges many people living in Denver face with having the resources for appropriate foods for a nutritious diet., Professionals define food insecurity as a social and economic condition that stems from “the lack of consistent access to adequate food” (Coleman-Jensen, McFall, & Nord, 2013). The Department of Agriculture states that this varies from hunger, a physiological condition, but can exacerbate into hunger if prolonged (Coleman-Jensen, McFall, & Nord, 2013).
Hunger Close to Home
In 2011, 17.9 million families in the United States reported food insecurity at some point during the year. This issue rings true right here in our neighborhoods surrounding Clayton Early Learning. Research conducted at Clayton this past fall identified that across our school based and Head Start Home Based programs, 38.6% of families worried about food running out. Food ran out completely for 18.7% of families at some point during the year.
Food insecurity can disturb children’s learning. Hunger affects children’s biopsychosocial development and impairs a child’s ability to pay attention and retain information learned in the classroom. Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that even “short episodes” of food insecurity can cause serious long-term damage to child development across cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical spectrums (Raphel, 2014).
- Clayton Staff Working to Combat Hunger in the Community
The Fresh Produce/Food Pantry Committee has a twofold mission to act as a catalyst in building the capacity of families to prevent food insecurity through:
- Providing emergency access to nutritious food for all families and staff
- Educating families about food and nutrition in three main areas:
- Food budgeting
- Meal planning
- Cooking skills
Throughout the year, the committee maintains the Food Pantry— an emergency resource for families and staff in need of support. During the summer months, we maintain and harvest gardens to provide fresh produce at no cost. We have collaborated with Denver Urban Gardens to offer two Youth Farmers’ Markets in the past year and strive to hold more this year! The Fresh Produce/Food Pantry Committee hopes to reduce food insecurity within our community. When our children have access to consistent and nutritious food, we can ensure that they have the brain nourishment needed to focus, grow, and succeed in school and life.
If you have any questions about the Fresh Produce/Food Pantry Committee or would like to get involved please contact
Coleman-Jensen, A., McFall, W., & Nord, M., (2013). Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics, 2010-11. United States Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service, Economic Information Bulletin 113.
Raphel, S. (2014). Eye on Washington: Children, Hunger, and Poverty. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 27, 45-47.