Clayton Early Learning Helps Combat Denver Food Deserts
DENVER - July 8 - Clayton Early Learning, a leader in early childhood education, research and training, is fighting food deserts in the Denver area that threaten families' access to good, healthy food.
As defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food desert is a Census tract of low-income households that do not have easy access to full grocery stores and fresh, healthy and affordable food. Instead, these areas are often served by fast food restaurants and convenience stores whose food options typically contribute to a poor diet, which leads to obesity and health issues.
Each year, Clayton families are surveyed about their food security. In 2014, nearly 39 percent said that in the past 12 months, they sometimes or often worried their food would run out before they would have money to buy more. Almost 19 percent reported actually running out of food sometimes or often.
As Clayton Early Learning's historical campus is in the center of one of the largest food deserts in the city, the institution finds that many of its families face food insecurity. This is a reason Clayton works hard to ensure that families who need help accessing healthy, fresh food receive it. Last year, Clayton's Food for Families committee distributed roughly 850 pounds of donated produce and 395 pounds of purchased produce - some of which was grown in Clayton's own Moonbeam Garden - as well as 1,136 loaves of bread.
This year, Clayton anticipates that about 10 percent of families will receive food from the emergency pantry. Through a partnership with the Denver Food Rescue, the pantry receives food from local grocery stores and food cooperatives, and Volunteers of America Colorado makes weekly donations of bread and other dry goods to stock the pantry.
Many more families are served through other resources across Clayton campuses and its home-based program, such as:
• Reduced-price produce sold at Clayton's Youth Farmers Markets
• Free produce and a free grocery program through a collaboration with Denver Food Rescue
• Clayton's campus gardens and the annual Moonbeam Harvest event on Sept. 10
• Totes of 9-11 pounds of food available for 65 families distributed to bridge food access over weekends through collaboration with Food Bank of the Rockies
Families are polled each year on their food security and Clayton collects information from those who access Clayton's Food Pantry on the types of food selected by families from the pantry, frequency of same family access, trends by program option usage, and other resources referred and/or accessed. This information helps Clayton gain insight into the needs of its families and how they change.
Clayton helps ensure that families not only receive enough food, but the right food. The Colorado Health Foundation's 2013 Colorado Health Report Card found that 14.2 percent of all Colorado children are obese. Meanwhile, in the City and County of Denver, 33.8 percent of children are classified as overweight or obese, according to a 2012 study from the Colorado Children's Campaign. Access to fresh, healthy food is imperative for lowering this number and reducing the likelihood of health issues such as heart disease that accompany obesity.
"Studies show clear links between weight and socioeconomic status, and we know that obesity stems from a lack of access to fresh and healthy foods," says Clayton President and CEO Charlotte Brantley, "No child's health should be sacrificed because of the family's low-income status. That's why working to make food deserts in the Denver area obsolete is so important to Clayton Early Learning. Giving children access to good food is another vital facet to ensuring their lifelong success."
Contact Clayton Early Learning President and CEO Charlotte Brantley directly at 303.398.8578 or cbrantley@ claytonearlylearning.org.
About Clayton Early Learning
Clayton Early Learning, a 501(c)(3), is Colorado's leading catalyst in providing early care and education to ensure optimal development for all children, especially those of limited opportunities. We harness the synergy of four dynamic initiatives - classroom and family-centered practices in our schools, research and program evaluation, professional development of teachers and leaders and effective policy advocacy - to spark improved early care and education approaches statewide in collaboration with other public and private entities.
Visit www.claytonearlylearning.org for more information.