The Montclair Child Development Center, Inc. (MCDC) provides early childhood education and related services to Head Start eligible students aged birth to five years old. Prior to COVID, MCDC staff prepared a healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack in their industrial kitchen in Montclair and then delivered meals to their other schools located in Glen Ridge and Orange.
Partners for Health awarded a grant to MCDC to replace its 14-year-old delivery van and continue to prepare meals themselves, rather than outsourcing to a vendor that would provide highly processed foods with large amounts of sodium and fat.
Tanya L. Poteat, Executive Director of MCDC, said, “For many of our children, MCDC is the main source of their daily nutrition. We want better for our brilliant early learners so each child can learn and grow to be their best self. We have the unique opportunity to provide our students with a variety of fresh food choices, which set the stage for a lifelong practice of healthy eating.”
The culturally diverse meals prepared by the MCDC nutrition team are served in a family-style setting that allows students to learn portion sizes, improve fine motor skills, and encourage sampling of different food. The teachers engage the children in discussions about food sources, color and texture, and motivate them to try all components of each meal. The students share the joy of learning about new foods with their families. Through this experience, parents also learn about different meals and menu items. Parents credit MCDC with helping their family become healthier.
Ms. Poteat added, “When we submitted the grant application for a new van to Partners for Health, we could not imagine the vital role it would play in meeting the needs of children and families due to the impact of COVID. We are so grateful to Partners for Health for providing us with the resources to continue service to the community during this unprecedented time. ”
In fact, the van purchased by MCDC was used during the COVID state-mandated shut down to deliver thousands of meals directly to the homes children served by this program. MCDC understood that ongoing health disparities, and hunger, had grown exponentially. They heard recurring themes in conversations with families: fear of contracting SARS-CoV-2, employment, food deserts, decreased public transportation, school closures, illness, and distress over their immigration status, which hindered access to feeding their children.
In the coming months, MCDC is confident that the van funded by the grant from Partners for Health will continue to serve the local community as a physical and symbolic vehicle that drives the race against childhood hunger. Through strong partnerships and grants, MCDC will continue to welcome any assistance that enables its children to thrive.
To learn more about MCDC, or to apply for Head Start, visit www.mcdcnj.org.