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The issue of child nutrition has been getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. Today, we have the growing crises of childhood obesity AND the persistence of child hunger. So what’s a community to do?

One way to address both crises is to increase access to affordable, nutritious foods. At the federal level, Senators are working to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that, in part, will strengthen the child nutrition programs that provide free and reduced school lunch. And in direct response to a recent report “Too Fat to Fight” which highlights how hunger and obesity impact military recruitment, certain members of the House of Representatives have proposed an Amendment to combat childhood hunger and obesity within the currently moving Defense Authorization Bill. We at Voices are pleased to note that one of the sponsors of this Amendment is Congressman Sanford Bishop from Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District.

Also specific to Georgia, the Food Trust, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia, has selected Georgia as one of the states in which to expand their work on Fresh Food Financing Initiatives.   The goal of this initiative is to increase access to grocery stores, particularly for families residing in those neighborhoods recently coined as “food deserts.”

True, these efforts alone will not guarantee that a child choose a carrot stick over a candy bar, but it does give the carrot stick more of a fighting chance.  (Go, carrot, go!)

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

Last week’s US Supreme Court ruling making unconstitutional the sentence of life without the chance of parole for youth in non-homicide cases gives those of us working on juvenile justice reform here in Georgia hope.  The Supreme Court has once again found that children are different from adults and thus should be treated differently when they get into trouble with the law. Research shows that community-based interventions are more effective than detention for most youth who get into trouble.  See today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution for an opinion piece that my colleague Beth Locker and I authored applauding the Supreme Court’s ruling and remaining hopeful that Georgia’s juvenile code reform effort will come to be and ultimately provide better outcomes for our children and families.

As a full time working mother of three, I know first-hand the importance of reliable, quality child care.  I also know just how expensive good child care can be.  Every working mom struggles with balancing the benefits of working with the costs of child care not to mention the stress of missing time with her children. 

 An article in today’s New York Times highlights the importance of child care assistance to low-income mothers. The article describes how in some states a frozen child care safety net makes it difficult on low-income mothers to gain a stable financial footing for themselves and their families. 

 How are working mothers and their children in Georgia faring?

 Thankfully, for low-income families the news in Georgia is largely positive.  Spurred by alarm regarding large waiting lists for child care assistance in FY 2008 and 2009, the Georgia Birth to Five Coalition, which was established through Voices for Georgia’s Children’s leadership, has worked to encourage state legislators and DFCS to leverage federal funds and eliminate waiting lists so that every child in need of care can be served in a quality learning environment.

 Upon the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Georgia placed a priority on child care subsidies and, through utilization of federal stimulus dollars, has managed to substantially reduce the waiting list and serve more children monthly. 

 Yet, our work is far from over.  Federal stimulus funds have replaced about $11.5 million of TANF funds in the FY 2011 state budget.  Thus, when the stimulus funds are exhausted, we must advocate for the restoration of TANF funds or inclusion of new state funds in the FY 2012 DHS Child Care Services budget. 

 We’ll need your help throughout the fall as we remind legislators about the importance of this vital support for working mothers.

From our national partner Voices for America’s Children:

Originally Posted by Joanna Shoffner Scott on May. 12

You can make a more dramatic impact on a person’s life the younger you reach out to them. We believe that in a lot of issues, like education and health. But crime prevention might be the best example of the idea of “get ’em young.”

Youth who have been previously tried as adults are, on average, 34 percent more likely to commit crimes than youth put in the juvenile justice system. This and a body of other research shows that making an effort to get troubled children onto a better path pays off, preventing adult crime and reducing juvenile recidivism.

Click here to support juvenile justice reform with a message to your member of Congress.

Children need lobbyists.  I’ve blogged about this before.  Individuals and nonprofits that care about children’s issues should storm the state capitol every January.  We must do so, in order to give the interests of children a fighting chance for the attention and commitment of lawmakers. (YES, non profits can lobby legally!  Just follow the IRS rules.  The Alliance for Justice will tell you how.)

But lobbyists for children, whether Moms, Dads, volunteers or nonprofits, rarely have the resources for the tickets, restaurants, trips and entertainment that often are offered by lobbyists in the corporate sector.  I don’t believe that most legislators “sell” their votes.  But the familiarity, even friendship, that develops over a good meal, cheering the Braves, walking the links, create pressures.  We all experience it, not just in politics but in organizations, neighborhoods, anywhere.  It doesn’t mean that legislators don’t care about kids or other social issues.  But the kids’ lobbyists don’t get the same amount of face time, nor time that breeds a sense of obligation. 

This is why the opinion piece by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver today in the AJC makes sense.   In speaking to your representatives about the rules on gifts from lobbyists and other ethics legislation, you are asking for a level playing field for all the interests addressed by our elected officials.  I’m asking for it for children. 

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

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