Every year, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Children’s Hospital Colorado team up to host Speak Up for Kids, a complimentary event that provides an insider’s perspective of the policy making process including the training and support needed to speak up effectively on the issues that matter most to Colorado kids. Anyone who wants to learn how to be a voice for our state’s children are welcome to attend and this year we had a record breaking attendance of over 200 advocates and coaches!
Want to know what it’s like to participate in this annual event? Let’s hear from our guest blogger and Infant/Toddler Supervisor at Clayton Early Learning in Far North East Denver, Lydia McKinney.
"The first time I had the privilege to participate at Speak Up for Kids was three years ago. I attended the meeting by myself. I didn’t know anybody. Of course, I was aware of who Children’s Hospital and Clayton Early Learning were, and I knew more about Children’s Campaign after I researched them. That first day I went home with a pocket full of knowledge, an experience which opened the door to opportunities, and a goal to keep pursuing where my heart leads.
The following year I was invited to be an advocacy coach on behalf of Clayton Early Learning and this year I was a table captain. An advocacy coach answers all the questions you have about your legislature, walks with you to the Capitol, and guides through the process of it. A table captain initiates a conversation at the table where participants of all field attend. Each time I attended the meeting I meet people, developed relationships, and connect with old friends.
A wide variety of people take time off from their busy work schedule to participate in the training, meet legislators, and reflect on their experience with fellow participants, advocacy coaches, or table captains. It’s a day you meet people you thought would never have time for you because they are doing the important work of making policies. The best part of meeting with policymakers is realizing you are the one they want to meet and listen to. You are the most important advocate for our kids!
Now you may be thinking of yourself as your read this blog, “only people whose job it is can afford to advocate” or “they have lobbyists who advocate for causes”. However, your role as an advocate didn’t start because you attended Speak Up for Kids, the event only re-enforced the need to follow your passion. Let’s say you are a provider with a disabled child who you want to provide with the best care, but practically you cannot because there is no access to a playground that developmentally appropriate. It’s your passion, so pick up your phone and call your city council man/woman, express your worries, ask for referrals, and make your mission public. Advocacy is in all of us, we are all connect to children no matter what kind of jobs we have. Police officers, trash men/women, bus driver, city council women/ and men, the mayor, Senators and Representatives, the Governor – even you!"
Interested in learning more about Speak Up for Kids and other ways you can be an advocate for Colorado’s children? Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Leaning, at 303-393-5623 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out pictures from this year’s event at www.facebook.com/ClaytonEarlyLearning/!
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.