Community Connection E-News
July 2017
In Our Communities

Erie County: Erie Together's early childhood readiness and success team is developing a community-wide technology-based campaign to generate awareness on the importance of high quality early childhood education and third grade reading proficiency. The text campaign will feature a weekly activity or statistic to help children prepare for kindergarten and is planned to launch in July in coordination with the Block by Block summer learning events. Additionally, Erie Together representatives have been involved in the local "Campaign for Grade Level Reading" push in partnership with United Way of Erie County and others. This group plans to have a School Community Readiness plan addressing school readiness, summer learning, and school attendance in place in the coming months. For more info, contact Mary Bula at  

Franklin County: Sue James and the children at the Keystone STAR 4 Karen James Family Childcare were recently featured on news station WHAG about the children's books she and the children in her program have co-authored. The three books are inspired from children in her program. For more information, contact Sue at

Mercer County: Best wishes to Mercer County's  Our Children, Our Future Coordinator, Frasier Zahniser who is retiring. Frasier was instrumental with her involvement in building an early childhood system and supports in Mercer County. Have a happy retirement, Frasier!

Mercer County: Welcome to  Sheri Valimont, a Mercer County Family Center director who is the new LEARN contact for Mercer County.  Sheri is committed to quality early learning as demonstrated by her leadership of four community family centers that implement the Parents As Teachers curriculum, the Incredible Years, and more. Send Sherri a welcome at  

Share your outreach on PA's Promise for Children website! 
Submit online  or send to Mary at

PA Kiwanis Hosts 3rd Annual Early Childhood Development Summit Breakfast

Kiwanis logo
The Kiwanis Pennsylvania District will host their 3rd Annual Early Childhood Development Summit breakfast on  August 11 in Lancaster, PA. Attendees are invited to hear the panel discussion with guests Suzann Morris, OCDEL Deputy Secretary; leaders from United Way of Lancaster, Millersville University Education Department and Lancaster County Libraries Youth Services; as well as local representatives. Kiwanis members and non-members are invited to attend. 

Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health Competency Survey 
Deadline August 15, 2017

The Pennsylvania Association for Infant Mental Health (PA-AIMH), with support from the Pennsylvania Project LAUNCH Partnership, will be implementing the Competency Guidelines for Endorsement in Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health®, developed by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH). An endorsement in infant/early mental health (I/ECMH) is a verifiable process that supports the development and acknowledgement of infant and early childhood professionals, within a framework that recognizes knowledge, training, and criteria for best practice standards. It is not a license or certification, but instead is an overlay onto a person's professional credentials which recognizes achievement of competence in the area of I/ECMH. 

PA-AIMH has developed a short survey for ALL professionals who work with or support children birth to age 6 and their families across our service systems. Responses are being sought from early care and education, home visitation, early intervention, physical health, behavioral health, child welfare, higher education, and any other system partner/ professional.  The survey will assist PA-AIMH in making data based decisions related to the development of resources, cross-system relationships, and professional development activities to support the field. Click here to take the survey before August 15. For more information about PA-AIMH, please go to

Seize the Summer

Beginning on July 5 and running through August 4, celebrate "Seize the Summer" with Read Aloud 15 Minutes, a non-profit organization that recognizes the benefits of reading aloud to children and encourages families and caregivers to read aloud every day for at least 15 minutes.  

At new materials and resources have been added for you to share with others in order to inspire reading every day. Be sure to look at the family handouts "Where Will Books Take You?" available for various ages and in both English and Spanish:
There are also a variety of items available to download in the Partner Toolkit .  Please use these resources and share them with others to "Seize the Summer" and help promote reading aloud every day!

Why Early Childhood Teacher and Administrators Should Think About Food Insecurity

Food insecurity, which refers to
a lack of food or sufficient quantities or quality of food necessary for a healthy lifestyle, impacts nearly one out of every five households in the United States, many of which include young children. In 2014, more than 15.3 million children lived in food-insecure households, while the rate of children living in " very food insecure " households--a more severe form of food insecurity where families experience more frequent disruptions to normal eating patterns--is on the rise. This trend is particularly alarming because, while food insecurity is harmful to all people, it can be especially devastating to a child's development.
Children have much smaller stomachs than adults and restricted access to food during the day. Not being able to eat the same quantity as an adult and not being able to "just whip out something to eat in the middle of their lessons as needed" means that children require "nutrient-dense meals and snacks," said Sibylle Kranz, an associate professor of education at the University of Virginia and a certified child nutrition epidemiologist.

"There is pretty solid evidence that children who are hungry are not able to focus, so they have a low attention span, behavioral issues, discipline issues in the school," she said. "So having children who are well-fed and not hungry makes a difference in their individual performance and also how much they are contributing or disrupting the classroom situation."

Researchers from Georgetown University and the University of Virginia have found young children who experience food insecurity have difficulties in learning and performance in kindergarten.
The study showed children with food insecurity in early childhood were more likely to be less prepared to start kindergarten compared to children from food secure households.

"Timing of food insecurity matters," Anna Johnson, an assistant professor of psychology at Georgetown, said in a press release. "In our study, food insecurity in infancy and toddlerhood predicted lower cognitive and social-emotional skills in kindergarten, skills that can predict later success in academics and life."
How We Can Help
While many are aware of programs, like the USDA's National School Lunch Program (free and reduced meal plans offered at schools, and summer lunch programs), according to the Coalition Against Hunger:
  • One in five eligible Pennsylvanians who qualify for SNAP don't participate in the program.
  • Fewer than half of low-income students who receive free or reduced-price school lunch are getting school breakfast.
  • When school is out, four in five low-income students miss out on summer meals.
To help make sure programs are aware of the resources available to schools, communities and families, some of the most readily available programs are outlined below.
School Meals
Schools send free meal applications home at the beginning of each school year. However, families may apply at any time throughout the school year by submitting a household application directly to their school. To see if a family qualifies, check out the income eligibility guidelines   from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
CACFP provides reimbursement for meals and snacks served to children receiving non-residential day care in private homes that are licensed, registered, or approved to subsidized relative/neighbor child care.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Some families may qualify for SNAP, which provides money on a debit card that can be used to purchase food.

There are a few ways to apply for SNAP:
  • Apply for/renew SNAP benefits online through COMPASS. Through COMPASS, Pennsylvania families can apply for other services to help make ends meet.
  • Find a local organization to help families apply for SNAP over the phone or in person. (Consider one of the food pantries in the map on this site.)
  • File an application in person at a County Assistance Office. Find the closest office. 
Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)
WIC serves the following Pennsylvania residents:
  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding women, for up to one year postpartum
  • Women up to six months postpartum, who are not breastfeeding
  • Infants and children under 5 years old, including foster children
Start your WIC application and learn about what is need to bring to your first appointment.
If families receive WIC they are also eligible to receive vouchers that can be redeemed at approved Pennsylvania farmers' markets. Find a nearby farmers' market that accepts Farmers' Market Nutrition Program vouchers.  
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
The Summer Food Service Program provides free meals to children from low-income families during the summer months when school is out. To find a meal site near you during the summer months:
  • Call 211 (United Way toll-free help line)
  • Text "MealPA" to 877877
References and Resources
Pennsylvania Organizations Addressing Hunger

Why am I getting this email?
OCDEL recognizes that many community based groups across the commonwealth are doing similar work and are comprised of similar team members. This newsletter can be used to help promote collaboration and awareness of others across the commonwealth. The goal is that as groups become aware of each other, events can be coordinated, resources shared and leveraged.  Check your email's in-box for future editions!
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