It’s embarrassing I haven’t thought of this before…it is such an important thing to understand. United Way staff members were asked to think about and share their own story of why they “Live United.” Several folks had very compelling experiences that made them aware of how important community is when something bad happens. And it is true that what drives many of us every day to do this work is remembering how difficult life is for so many.
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On Friday, September 26, Buncombe County folks will be celebrating! The celebration is for our Culture of Health. Come to Kimmel Arena at UNC Asheville at 4 p.m. to not only celebrate, but learn more about what many individuals and groups are doing collectively to improve the health of all our residents.
In February, I wrote a piece about a school in another state that took lunches away from students who weren’t paid up. Thankfully, I learned then that Buncombe County Schools has a policy of ensuring each student has a lunch, even if his or her parents haven’t covered the cost for that day. Now, it’s even better news over the summer with the announcement that for the third year in a row, schools are offering free lunches at 16 different sites scattered around the county.
Funny how school lunches play out in different settings. Not so funny if you are the child who is denied a meal. Here are three ways schools have approached feeding children:
An Exercise in Difficulties at Many Levels
Another snow day for schools means scrambling on all sides. As a parent, I would be so frustrated because I still had to get to work and now I had to figure out what to do with my children. Old enough to stay home? They would wreck the house! Need child care? Programs might open at 10, but I had an 8:30 meeting! And then, as it often happens in the mountains of WNC, by noon the roads are clear and the sky is sunny. However, as a school board member, I soon understood how complicated it is.
How do you decide which came first; the chicken or the egg? I’ve had multiple opportunities to debate with people in Buncombe County about which is more important to a successful life; one’s education, income or health. There are very impassioned and energetic views on all sides.
There are predictors that link these three areas: Likelihood of graduating from high school goes up with higher family income; Parents’ education level indicates children’s education level; Poor health or poor access to health care can lead to poor performance in school.
Imagine a very long line of infants and toddlers standing outside, waiting to get into a building. 980 children in fact. Imagine that adults in communities across the state looked at those lines every day and the only way they could get one child out of the line was if another child was removed from the service they were waiting for.
It’s not a new topic, but we certainly seem to rehash it every year or so. With quality early childhood education, children will be school ready; have higher graduation rates and grow into productive citizens and valuable employees. And while our own state’s approach to preparing children for kindergarten now hangs in the balance in the court system, we have significant research about the first 2000 days of a child’s life.
United Way invests community funds in Education, Income and Health. Considered the building blocks for a good life, these three areas are addressed by different nonprofit and public programs that propose to improve the lives of their clients in very specific ways and to measure how successful they are. After experts in these areas recommend to the United Way board which programs should receive funds, the board votes, contracts are signed and the programs begin their work. At the end of 12 months, each program submits a final report of their clients’ results.
With a high rate of working parents in Buncombe County, it would seem important to have a sound approach to finding good after-school care for our children. But how does that usually work?