Yesterday I spoke at the closing session of the 40thannual conference of the National Head Start Association, following inspiring remarks by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. A summary of my comments follow below.
Thank you Yasmina Vinci for that very kind introduction and congratulations on all that you’ve achieved here this week. It is an honor to be in a room of advocates and champions for how to care for, mentor and bring along the generation of young people who will be our future.
I recently heard some good advice along those lines from my eight year old son, who is in second grade and as we were walking to school bumped into his pre-school cousin Audrey . They got into a conversation that my wife Rosemary and I could not quite hear, but when he put his hand on her shoulder to console her about something, we leaned in from behind and heard this wisdom from a second grader to a pre-schooler: “Listen, just enjoy the naps while they last.”
Here’s another bit of advice we’ve found to be true: if you want to make a difference in the lives of kids, then partner with National Head Start Association. And so today Share Our Strength is announcing just such a partnership which includes a grant of $100,000 to ensure that 10,000 Head Start parents get Cooking Matters At the Store, our signature program for ensuring that moms and families have the information and resources they need to prepare healthy meals for growing children. This will empower families by teaching them more about reading nutrition labels and unit pricing, so that they can make healthy and affordable choices for their meals. This is just a start. We hope to grow the program in 2014 and 2015..
Cooking Matters at The Store is a critical component of our No Kid Hungry campaign. Hunger in America is a solvable problem. This is not Syria or Sudan or sequestration. Children are not hungry because of lack of food or lack of lack of food programs, but because of lack of access. 21 million children get a free or reduced price school lunch and all 21 million are also eligible for breakfast, but only 11 million get it. What does that tell you. It says that these children are not only vulnerable but voiceless. You are there voice.
This is an extraordinary time to be raising your voice on behalf of those who are voiceless. With so many Americans in poverty or struggling and so many kids at risk. Our focus at Share Our Strength and our window into this space is around the impact of food and nutrition and what we are seeing affirms the vital role that early investments here as well of course as in education and head start plays.
Every day we are learning and proving that while there are investments some think we can’t afford to make, we actually can’t afford not to make them when it comes to the education of our children. We can’t have a strong America with weak kids. We can’t have a healthy economy with unhealthy kids. We can’t have an America prepared to compete in the world without children prepared to learn. Head Start and Cooking Matters are a big part of that solution.
As the writer James Baldwin said: “These are all our children and we shall profit by or pay for whatever they become.” Let’s make sure that what they become is smart, and kind, and healthy, and wise, and that American does too.