The Growing Place Becomes State Model

 

The Growing Place in Asheboro has become the first of six child care centers in North Carolina to officially become a Shape NC Demonstration Site.

The designation, celebrated Friday evening outside the center, means that the local center has improved its nutrition, physical activity and outdoor learning environments and now serves as a model of healthy best practices for early childhood.

Katherine Davis, the center’s director since 1997, said it was made possible through a lot of hard work and the involvement of many in the community. “We’re so glad to be a piece of the puzzle in Randolph County,” she added about the center’s commitment to ensure its children learn about the importance of eating healthy and being active.

Asheboro Mayor David Smith noted that the center’s efforts “dovetailed” with the community’s health initiatives.

“Health is going to be the norm,” said Pauline McKee, executive director of the Randolph County Partnership for Children, about the impact.

Mark Dessauer compared the Shape NC initiative to a “Five Apple” system for child care centers which are licensed by the state through a Five Star program. He’s director of communications for the BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of North Carolina which, with the involvement of the N.C. Partnership for Children, created the Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children initiative.

Shape NC is a six-year, $6 million initiative which is starting its fifth year in the state. The Randolph partnership has been part of Shape NC from the start. It was selected as one of the four original regional hubs in the state to promote the early childhood obesity prevention program whose aim is to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight.

Child care centers are creating health-promoting environments for children by improving nutrition practices, including physical activity and developing the outdoor learning environment.

The Growing Place’s initial efforts allowed them to be designated as a Model Early Learning Center, one of 19 in the state. Staff received technical assistance through the partnership and incorporated health-promoting environments into their programs. The center, a ministry of First Baptist Church since 1987, serves preschool and school-age children from the ages of 6 weeks to 12 years.

Moving from a model center to a Shape NC Demonstration Site means that The Growing Place has achieved a level of excellence for best practices. Since it is a demonstration site, it will provide on-site tours for others to see the nutrition, physical activity and outdoor learning environments in action and learn about how these improvements are accomplished.

Many other child care centers and preschools in Randolph have become model centers.

Early childhood officials report that in the first three years of the initiative, child care centers across the state almost doubled the number of healthy best practices adopted for the promotion of health and nutrition.

Dessauer noted that the efforts are producing kids with “stronger legs, not stronger thumbs.” They’re also eating healthier foods. He said Jennifer MacDougall, senior program director with the foundation, will be presenting results of the initiative at an upcoming international conference, in Scotland, related to nutrition and physical activity.

Children at The Growing Place are able to enjoy an outdoor learning environment, built with the help of a lot of community volunteers, and containing vegetables and fruits served for snacks and meals, and, as one of their activities, visit the nearby Farmers’ Market.

A parent using the center for the past four years, Penny Crooks, said The Growing Place helps her three children “physically, nutritionally, cognitively, emotionally and developmentally.” Her young son is learning about trying new physical activities while her oldest daughter “loves fruits.”

After the program, attendees had an opportunity to sample the healthier foods which the children are enjoying.

The five other Shape NC Demonstration Sites will be recognized in June and July. The other designees range from a center in Charlotte to programs in Greensboro and Chapel Hill to centers in Taylorsville and Asheville.

For more information, contact Patty Sullivan, who serves as Shape NC project coordinator for the Randolph County Partnership for Children, at (336) 629-2128, ext. 16.

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