Nutrition 4 Young Children was created in 2018 to
- Build awareness of the crucial importance of adequate and good nutrition for optimal brain development from prebirth through age 5
- Educate the general population about what it can do to maximize the health and well being of children from prebirth through age 5
- Motivate the general population, service agencies and faith communities into actions that improve the nutrition and well being of children from prebirth through age 5
This central Iowa–based organization, incorporated in 2018 as Young Children – Priority One, grew from a childhood hunger project co-chaired by Diana and Phil Sickles for the Nebraska-Iowa District Kiwanis. In more than 50 conversations with local professionals involved with nutritional guidelines, pregnant mothers, child development, and school readiness, it became apparent that no entity was specifically focusing on educating central Iowa moms on good nutrition during pregnancy and in the early formative years.
Healthy Baby Showers
Phil and Diana did additional research and connected with leaders and experts in the field on the importance of nutrition in the development of baby’s brain, both in utero and in the early childhood years. They gathered others who had an interest in local hunger issue and secured funding to develop and host four free “Healthy Baby Showers” in partnership with Iowa State Extension during 2018. The showers reached nearly 100. Pregnant women and their husbands, partners, children and interpreters attended to learn information on making healthy choices, nutritional needs, and foods to avoid while pregnant. Healthy salads and proteins were served, along with a create-your-own parfait bar featuring yogurt, fruit, granola and nuts.
Each attendee received a healthy baby backpack (a $100 value) that contained a digital baby thermometer, diapers, swaddling gown, food containers, baby bottle, cloth doll, discount coupons for baby items and other infant needs. Some 20 language appropriate brochures on various aspects of pregnancy were available on a resource table.
The Healthy Baby Shower Toolkit, an instructional booklet for creating a healthy baby shower in one’s community, was created for Kiwanis clubs and other service and faith-based organizations. This toolkit and accompanying script was produced for the Nebraska-Iowa District, Kiwanis International website.
Expanding Our Reach
The success of the healthy baby showers and the need to reach more pregnant women inspired the creation of a separate organization (Young Children – Priority One, dba Nutrition 4 Young Children) to focus on nutrition and early childhood brain development. During 2019, ISU Extension has been joined by Polk County Extension to provide another 50 low-income pregnant mothers and their support persons these informational Healthy Baby showers. Focus groups and phone research with past participants revealed what information was most valuable and incorporated into their lives. Monthly Parents and Community Together (PaCT) groups were formed — in both English and Spanish — to support the new moms with child development information and how to provide low-cost healthy and nutritious meals for their families.
Both Healthy Baby Showers and PaCT Parent Cafes were suspended early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthy Baby Showers are now held via Zoom and will continue that way until it is once again safe to gather in groups. To stay in touch with PaCT mothers, in March N4YC began providing monthly mailings which have included bilingual children’s books, vouchers for purchasing kitchen essentials, gift cards and informational fact sheets and brochures from our partners/resource agencies.
- John Roehrick, President
- Donna Dickerson, Vice President
- Diana Sickles, Secretary
- Mike Musich, Treasurer
- Connie Cohen, Member at Large
- Marvel Dunaway, Member at Large
- Caitlyn Hainley, Member at Large
- Pat Headley, Member at Large
By age three, 80 percent
of the brain is developed
By age five, 90 percent.