In March 2021, due to COVID restrictions, we offered an online workshop in place of the Champions for Health Youth Summit. The Jaleo Project was a 4-week flamenco dance and visual arts virtual workshop taught by artists Adrianne D. Clayton and Melinda Hedgecorth to help kids explore what happiness means in their communities.
Twenty-five Girls on the Run athletes took part, and 6 of the workshop videos were made public so anyone could learn the dance and make fans at home, at school or with their community group.
Girls on the Run coach and elementary school teacher Rebecca Perkins explained what the project meant to her and her students.
When school had to go 100% online during the pandemic, it was a challenging time for students. After nearly a year the kids were struggling with school work, with connecting to their friends, and they were missing the experience of recess. We did Girls on the Run virtually, but the kids wanted more; it was through that program that my school was partnered with KC Healthy Kids and introduced to The Jaleo Project. When we decided to do The Jaleo Project with the kids it provided a huge mental health benefit for the students. Students didn’t want to turn cameras on for school, but they did for this. The physical part was important too. It got them up and moving in a fun way. They even practiced beyond the organized times. It also supported parents, letting them see their kids doing something fun and active and happy. We heard from parents that they wanted to keep it going.
KC Healthy Kids facilitated the connection and provided a turnkey option for the schools and teachers. There was a supply drop off for the kids to be able to create their fans for the dance. Kids really appreciated that their fans were being featured in a public setting on display. The women who led it did a fantastic job working with kids on their level. They were great and calming fears and nerves. If KC Healthy Kids offered this again, my kids would sign up in a heart-beat. Especially for an in person setting. They loved it. It was so much fun!
Flamenco is a traditional style of dance in Spain. The audience often participates by yelling words of encouragement, like Olé!, to the performers. This is called jaleo, and in the workshop kids learn how jaleo is used to encourage flamenco performers, and how to recognize the ways they encourage themselves and each other.
The project culminated on the United Nations' International Day of Happiness, March 20, 2021, with a virtual celebration featuring a video dance performance.
Jaleo fans made by kids in the workshop and at Children's Mercy were displayed at the hospital March through September of 2021 and were seen by thousands of people including children, employees, pediatric specialists, volunteers, and visitors to the hospital who travel from 46 states and 17 countries. Nearly half of care provided at Children's Mercy is paid for with Medicaid and other government assistance.
The exhibit featured mini flamenco lessons, which people could access using a QR code, and KSHB-41 shared a story about it in their good news series, #WeSeeYouKC. You can see photos of the exhibit here.
Want to be a part of KC Healthy Kids' Mental Health solution? Donate today
We like to put a spin on Giving Tuesday and use the day to show our appreciation for the people and organizations who help us connect communities for better health through Good Food Policy, Local Food, Mental Heath, Youth Advocacy and Active Communities. We're so grateful for all of you!
Special thanks go to our board of directors for supporting KC Healthy Kids as volunteers and donors (denoted with an asterisk).
10 Ways to advocate for good food policy
Speak Out Today
1. Support the Build Back Better Act. This historic budget reconciliation package includes important food system provisions. It expands and extends child nutrition assistance programs, like free school meals and Summer EBT, and the Child Tax Credit, which decreases child poverty. The legislation also invests in sustainable agriculture, rural development, urban agriculture and working lands conservation. Here are three easy ways to ask your Members of Congress to support the Build Back Better Act:
2. Help us build an equitable food system. Help identify relevant information to share and designate stakeholders to participate in food system equity assessment and planning. Use the Steering Committee Resource Guide to deepen your understanding of racial injustice and strategies for building an equitable and just food system for all.
3. Advocate for urban agriculture. Our Urban Farm Zoning and Planning Task Force published policy recommendations to improve planning and zoning for urban farming in the region. Read the report and learn how to get involved here.
4. Eliminate Kansas' Sales Tax on Food. Kansas has the second highest state sales tax on food. Tell your Kansas state representative and senators to eliminate the sales tax on food. Find more information and advocacy resources here. Use this sample social media post:
Ending Kansas’ Food Sales Tax has bipartisan support – but it’s never been done before. Glad to see @GovLauraKelly announced a commonsense plan to ELIMINATE this tax and put more money in Kansans’ pockets. #AxeTheFoodTax #ksleg
5. Get ready for Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Congress is expected to pick up CNR in 2022, so brush up on the reauthorization process and all the nutrition programs funded through this legislation. Learn more about CNR at Food Research and Action Center.
6. Support food and farm workers. Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act has been passed by the House in 2020 and 2021, but the Senate has not taken up the bill. The PRO Act ensures workers have the right to organize and bargain for a living wage and safe working conditions. Join Food Chain Workers Alliance and other organizations in supporting workers across the food system. Message your Senators here.
7. Find local food and farmers. Use the Eat Local KC map to eat local for the holidays and year-round. Farmers who wish to be included in the directory can apply for membership here.
8. Amplify alerts and events. Rapid policy changes mean action alerts are more important than ever. If you’ve attended our meetings but haven’t received advocacy alerts, check your spam folder and filter settings. Otherwise, sign up for our email list.
9. Network and collaborate. Attend our quarterly work group meetings and other coalition events. Our events are generally free and open to the public. Find events here.
10. Sustain effective advocacy. Coalition membership is free, but the work isn’t! Donations provide crucial support for costs that grants don’t cover, such as lobbying. Make a monthly or one-time donation here.
KC Healthy Kids, along with partnering organizations Cultivate KC, Mid-America Regional Council and New Growth, have received funding from the USDA's Regional Food System Partnerships program to connect and strengthen our regional foodshed.
The partnering organizations bring together diverse networks from urban, suburban and rural communities. The project area includes: Allen, Douglas, Leavenworth and Wyandotte in Kansas and Cass, Jackson, Lafayette and St. Clair in Missouri. They also bring complementary expertise in community planning, research, stakeholder engagement, food system justice and community development.
Katie Nixon, Food Systems Director with West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and member of the New Growth Team, believes this project "will give us an opportunity to understand our local food system from new perspectives and help guide future work that will help make the region more resilient and food secure."
The main goal of the project is to identify actionable strategies to develop a sustainable, systematic connection between food producers and consumers in the regional foodshed by:
For Marlene Nagel, Director of Community Development at MARC, "this project is important to our region in understanding food security needs and how to best leverage existing resources and determine where additional support is necessary."
Andrea Clark, Project Manager
Director of Food System Planning, KC Healthy Kids
Ami Freeberg, Coordinating Partner
Metro Farms and Food Systems Program Manager, Cultivate KC
Katie Nixon, Coordinating Partner
Food Systems Director, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency & New Growth
President, The KC Food Hub
Co-Operator, Green Gate Family Farm
Lacy Stephens, Project Coordinator
Director of Local Food Programs, KC Healthy Kids
Marlene Nagel, Coordinating Partner
Community Development Director, Mid-America Regional Council
Rachael McGinnis-Millsap, Project Coordinator
VP of Programs and Policy, KC Healthy Kids
Beth Low-Smith, KC Healthy Kids’ vice president for policy and director of the Greater KC Food Policy Coalition, was presented with the InnovateHER Lifetime Achievement award, which was established to recognize women who’ve paved the way for positive change in the Kansas City community.
After completing the Women’s Studies program at MU, Beth moved to Kansas City to receive some on-the-job experience. A few years later her work for the Progressive Vote Coalition helped her grow deep roots in the community and to eventually led her to join KC Healthy Kids.
Since then, Beth has served three terms as Missouri State Representative (2005-2010) serving a district that included Westport, the Country Club Plaza and part of Brookside, working as a domestic violence social worker, and serving as the Jackson County Democratic Committeewoman for Ward 6 since 2012.
At KC Healthy Kids Beth engages stakeholders to shape policies that define our opportunities to eat well and be physically active throughout our lives. Beth also strives to change policies around urban agriculture and public transit and to shift state policies to improve community food security and local foods including SNAP, WIC, and school lunch programs — programs that have made a difference in her own life.
Here are her comments from the awards ceremony:
Thank you for this honor. At the risk of sounding trite, I am humbled to receive a lifetime achievement award. I’ve tried to live up to Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to “work hard at work worth doing,” but I think it is often difficult to know whether you are actually making a difference while you’re in the midst of such efforts. So it is truly an honor to look up from my tasks and find that others admire and respect my efforts.
My career has been quite varied, but the unifying thread has been working with others to change policy. In other words, I’ve specialized in group projects. That means sharing the credit—or occasionally the blame—for any achievement. There’s a long list of people whose love, encouragement, wisdom, grace and generosity contributed to every achievement. They have not only made my work possible, they make the work worth doing.
My parents, Jim and Diane, blessed me with unconditional love and support that gave me the courage and tenacity I’ve needed. They also raised me with a fierce commitment to justice and mutual responsibility.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to work with people who share that commitment, and who inspire me each day to build the kind of community we all deserve. I’ve learned from brilliant supervisors and coworkers such as John, Gretchen, Sarah, Heather, Miranda, Andrea and many others.
I’ve also found teachers among the countless volunteers and stakeholders involved in campaigns and coalitions with which I’ve worked, such as the Greater KC Food Policy Coalition.
Throughout my career I’ve drawn from these wells to build an extraordinary community of friends and mentors who sustain me: Crystal, Brook, MaryEllen, Alexis, Susan, Judy, Joni, Todd, Amy, Sarah, Amanda, Kirsten and many other BABS. Finally, my husband, Dwight, whose patience and generosity allow me to devote a massive amount of time to my work and our community. These people are both my daily inspiration and reward.
Thank you to InnovateHer for recognizing the merit of our collective efforts.
Buckle up, because we are just getting started.
InnovateHER KC is a 4,600+ member leadership community, serving a diverse, passionate and highly engaged network of women and individuals from marginalized gender communities. They focus on equity, inclusion and low-barrier-to-entry through their five pillars of social connection, professional development, championship, mentorship, and resource sharing.
Thanks to Cerner Charitable Foundation, early care centers partnering with KC Healthy Kids for trauma-informed training will receive Care Kits. The kits provide families facing difficult times with age appropriate personal items for their children.
Our case worker, Luis Colón, recently visited Cotton Candy Daycare to drop off the kits, which include onesies, handmade blankets, bottles and binkies, which can play a key role in helping children have a sense of security and comfort.
“We are thankful to be able to share Cerner’s Care Kits and are happy to be a part of their work,” said Danielle Robbins-Gregory. “This is another way to help the families at our partnering centers feel cared for.”
The early care centers have received trauma-informed care training through several grants secured by KC Healthy Kids. The training gives staff the opportunity to support children by emphasizing trauma-sensitive principles including safety, trust, collaboration and empowerment, ultimately helping kids develop healthy relationships.
The Cerner Charitable Foundation focuses on three key areas: health, home and heroes, to help build a healthier tomorrow and stronger communities.
At KC Healthy Kids, we partner with Cerner because their core competency of health aligns with our programming. Currently we have received a total of 300 care kits to disperse to early care centers over the next 6 months.
Luwillis Canada — she goes by Ms. Lu — is an early education director who believes that along with their ABCs and 123s, kids need to know their carrots, tomatoes and cantaloupes too! That’s why Canada’s Child Care Center in Kansas City, Missouri has a garden where kids can plant, tend, harvest and eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
Families and teachers are invited to visit the garden and harvest food to take home, but during the pandemic, job losses and food supply problems meant Ms. Lu’s families needed more than the garden could provide.
When she heard about KC Healthy Kids’ free farm box delivery, she signed up right away. Every other week, families received bundles of fresh produce, eggs, dairy and meat from local farmers.
“You know, I was born in Arkansas and my parents had a big farm and they also raised a big garden. I was raised on fruits and vegetables, and so I knew how it would benefit a child to have that too,” Ms. Lu said.
Across the metro, about 200 families at partnering early care centers signed up for farm shares. Not only was the bountiful box full of healthy, delicious foods, it was also delivered to their early care center, so busy parents didn’t have to make another stop on the way home.
KC Healthy Kids purchased the food and partnered with the Kansas City Food Hub to have the farm shares assembled and delivered. So by signing up for farm shares, families helped local farmers by providing them with income and way to keep their crops from dying in the field.
You can help Ms. Lu feed her kids healthy, locally-grown produce and keep area farmers in business when you support KC Healthy Kids’ Local Food programs like this one.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II recently visited with KC Healthy Kids to share his perspective on the power of youth voices and to hear about kids’ proposals to make their schools and communities healthier.
“Change, in the history of this planet, has almost always been brought about by young people,” he said. “The world depends on young people because their minds are fresh and they have a level of daring”
He told how, at age 15, he led the first civil rights march in Wichita Falls when 50 students joined him in protesting segregated movie theaters there. He also shared a foolproof tactic for getting the attention of elected officials -- kids need to do the talking!
“Nobody, nobody wants to get on the bad side of kids,” he said, “You have much more power than you believe.”
The visit was made possible through a grant from Healthy Blue, a leading managed care provider of health benefits for Missouri’s MO HealthNet (Medicaid) program, which serves more than 300,000 Medicaid members with innovative solutions and services for affordable and reliable healthcare.
Representative Cleaver reviewed proposals by students from Central Middle School, EPiC Elementary, Banneker Elementary and Foreign Language Academy. The projects won first place or received honorable recognition in KC Healthy Kids’ Champions for Health Challenge. You can see all the winning proposals with photos here.
“Healthy Blue is proud to support KC Healthy Kids and the Champions for Health Challenge,” said Jeff Davis, plan president, Healthy Blue. “We remain committed to providing our local youth with tools and resources to promote and encourage healthy and productive lifestyles. Through this initiative, students were able to engage alongside their peers with brain-stimulating activity that will create and improve overall quality of life that furthers our mission of building healthier communities.”
Emanuel Cleaver II has represented Missouri's Fifth Congressional District in Washington, DC for over 15 years. Before that, he was a city council member and the first Black mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. One of Representative Cleaver’s biggest accomplishments was establishing a Green Impact Zone. That project brought resources and money into under-resourced neighborhoods to rebuild curbs and sidewalks, fix up houses and make them energy efficient, and create jobs. Today he’s going to talk about why your voice matters and how to engage your decision makers to make change in your community
The Urban Farm Zoning and Planning Task Force just released their report From the Ground Up: Planning and Zoning for Urban Agriculture in Greater Kansas City. The report is a tool for urban planners, city staff, urban farmers and advocates to use to address the biggest barriers to urban agriculture in the Kansas City region.
The first section of this report gives an overview of urban agriculture and its benefits. The second section provides best practices and resources to plan for urban agriculture. The third section outlines seven barriers and offers policy recommendations and case studies to support urban agriculture.
The Greater KC Food Policy Coalition established the task force in April 2020 to improve community food security by identifying and advocating for planning and zoning policies that ensure urban farmers are able to operate successfully. Moving forward, the report will inform the coalition's work to advocate for policy change.
If you'd like to join us in advocating for urban agriculture, fill out this form and we'll be in touch.
Eating Local 101
Changing lifelong eating habits can be a daunting and expensive task. Whether its for environmental, health, economic, or moral reasons, or if you just want you food to taste better, Local food is the way to go! But where do you start? remain calm, we are here for you! Here are our favorite ways to help people just like you start eating more local, organic, and free-range food.