By: Amanda Cappelletti
As summer draws to end, so does my health policy internship with Child Care Aware of America. Reflecting on the past ten weeks, it is hard to believe how much I have learned and how much I have done. I went from stopping to think “Child Care and Development Block Grant” before saying “CCDBG” to it rolling off my tongue. I attended webinars and subcommittee calls, in the office, and got out of the office for briefings on the Hill.
The first few days I was at the office, my head was buried in books and various publications and presentations about the child care sphere. My third day, I attended a CCDBG briefing on the in Hill in the morning and sat through a webinar in the afternoon. It did not take long for my calendar to fill up with subcommittee calls, webinars and briefings: attend this, take notes on that. I quickly became well-versed with the current legal state of early care and education as well as becoming well-versed with the health initiatives and policies.
One of the first subcommittee calls I sat in on was Farm to Preschool (F2P). I remember someone saying that family child care homes and small centers have a hard time participating in the program because they simply lacked the buying power to make it economical or to entice farmers to work with them. This one comment inspired my research for the summer. I was determined to figure out how to use already existing infrastructure to make F2P economical for family child care homes and small centers, and enticing for farmers to work with them. Now, I am writing a policy paper suggesting how Pennsylvania might leverage its resources so that F2P can be a success.
My research connected me with professionals, all across the nation (and some who teach at Temple University, which I am currently attending!), dedicated to improving health and wellness policies in early care and education. They provided guidance and materials to help with my research. Hopefully, those have also become life long career connections.
My research also led me to other webinars and briefings that I was encouraged to attend. There are two that stand out for me. The first is a TEDMED talk, Great Challenges: A Candid Conversation About Childhood Obesity. This particular talk stands out because Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), spoke and answered questions. RWJF is a leading contributor to researching childhood obesity, and supporting health and wellness initiatives in early care and education. This talk also stood out because Don Schwarz, the former Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity in Philadelphia, spoke. Under his commission, childhood obesity in the city, declined nearly 5 percent! Not only did I feel a sense of pride, being from that area of Pennsylvania, it gave me hope; if Philadelphia can do it, so can other towns, cities, and states!
I was also able to attend a briefing at the Senate Building, Improving Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Early Care and Education: Commitments, Challenges and Accomplishments, my exact topic of choice! At this event, two individuals running food and nutrition policies in child care centers spoke about how they have succeeded in implementing healthy menus. Two other experts, Debbie Chang of Nemours and Dr. William Dietz from George Washington University, spoke about the prevalence of obesity and the need for children to eat healthy meals and snacks. This talk reminded me, that although there is hope, there is still a long way to go.
And it is a long way back to Philadelphia. It is hard to believe I am returning to classes in the upcoming weeks. However, thanks to my time at Child Care Aware of America, I return to classes, remembering why I decided to go back to school. I return refueled with passion for children’s health and wellness policies.