Reinvestment Fund Award to Support Healthy Eating Campaign and Bulk Food Purchasing
United Way of Northern New Jersey has been approved for a $50,000 New Jersey Child Nutrition Fund Innovation Award to support a comprehensive healthy eating campaign for its child care pilot project, United In Care. The grant is administered through the Philadelphia-based Reinvestment Fund.
The healthy eating campaign will be implemented through United In Care’s Warren County child care network, which consists of one child care center and 10 family care providers serving approximately 50 families and 66 children. The grant includes bulk purchasing of nutritious foods and food preparation supplies, bulk food storage, healthy eating outreach to families, healthy meal preparation training, and education and potential enrollment in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program where appropriate. The yearlong program will launch in March.
This healthy eating and bulk purchasing initiative is in line with United In Care’s mission to increase the affordability and the quality of child care for those struggling to make ends meet—ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and families in poverty. United In Care also aims to improve the quality of life for child care workers, many of whom are ALICE essential workers themselves.
“This grant, which reinforces the benefits of our shared services platform, will help our childcare business owners offset rising food costs while also providing healthy, nutritious meals to children and families in their care,” said United Way’s Senior Director of Strategies Michelle Roers, who oversees the United In Care project. “We are extremely grateful to Reinvestment Fund for this generous donation and its commitment to building strong, healthy and more equitable communities.”
United In Care’s hub-and-spokes model partners licensed child care centers (hubs) with registered local family care providers (spokes) to expand capacity, leverage expertise, share resources and sustain critical infrastructure. United In Care’s Warren County alliance consists of Little Wonders Childcare and Learning Center in Lopatcong as the hub and 10 registered Warren County-based family care providers as the spokes.
The money from the grant will go directly towards the purchase of freezers, pantries, food storage containers and non-disposable kitchenware for all 10 family care providers as well as for Little Wonders, which will also receive a dishwasher to maintain a more sanitized kitchen in a larger childcare center setting.
In addition, United In Care will coordinate with local super markets and farms to establish a healthy meal preparation training program. Once a month, enrolled families, Little Wonders, and the family care providers will receive a shopping bag of healthy fresh ingredients, a zoom link to attend a cooking demonstration led by ShopRite, and tips and tricks for encouraging kids to eat new, healthier foods. The group will be “together from home” with families ending each class with their own nutritious meal to enjoy.
The United In Care pilot program has the potential to be implemented statewide and nationally. All facets, including the healthy eating and bulk purchasing initiatives, are intended to be shared, replicated, customized, and scaled for other communities facing dire shortages in quality early education and care, including New Jersey’s Gloucester and Hudson Counties, where two additional United In Care networks are operating.