Worcester, Massachusetts – Worcester Community Action Council has received a $62,000 grant from Fundación MAPFRE to support the nutrition program at the agency’s Head Start program. This is the second consecutive year the Fundación has supported the agency’s early childhood education nutrition program.

Healthy nutrition is crucial for young children’s success and provides a solid ground for healthy growth and development throughout the course of their lifetime. Children enrolled in WCAC’s Head Start program receive a nutritional breakfast, lunch and snack daily. While the agency is reimbursed a portion of the nutritional program costs by the United States Department of Agriculture, a sizable cost remains.

“Early childhood education programs help children develop important cognitive and social skills,” said Alfredo Castelo, Chief Representative of Fundación MAPFRE in the U.S. “Fundación MAPFRE is proud to support Head Start and help children in our community begin their day with a healthy meal.”

“We are most appreciative of Fundación MAPFRE’s strong support for this important component of our Head Start program,” said WCAC Executive Director Marybeth Campbell. “Providing a healthy head start now will better establish the children as life-long learners and better ensure their educational success going forward.”

Resources from the Fundación MAPFRE grant will support the time spent by teachers and support staff to provide food to the children. USDA reimburses WCAC the food purchased from the school district for the children, but not the other costs associated with providing the food. The kitchen support staff ensures the food is ready and safe to be served and the teachers spend an hour and a half every day, facilitating the serving of food at the three mealtimes. The administration staff and supervisors ensure proper training in handling food and food allergies, as well as documentation of food served.

Head Start children receive breakfast, lunch and a snack daily – served family style so that teachers and staff can model table manners, sharing and social interaction lessons, as well as healthy nutrition. The grant from Fundación MAPFRE will provide each of the 203 children enrolled in the program the equivalent of 107 daily breakfasts.

Developing healthy eating habits at a young age is critical to ensure healthy growth and development, and is a contributing factor to a young child’s future success. Most families served by WCAC’s Head Start program, however, struggle to provide nutritious meals to their children. Many would not eat three meals a day due to their family’s low incomes if they were not provided meals through WCAC’s Head Start program.

WCAC’s Head Start program serves families from the communities of East Brookfield, Leicester, Millbury, Oxford, Spencer, Southbridge and Webster. Families must meet income eligibility standards to qualify. Children in foster care, homeless children, and children from families receiving public assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income) are also eligible for Head Start services regardless of income.

The two communities in which WCAC operates Head Start Centers, Southbridge and Webster, Massachusetts, are among the highest communities of need within the agency’s 45 community service area. According to recent census data, more than 40% of children under five in Southbridge and nearly 15% of children under five in Webster are living below the poverty level.

The Head Start program provides developmentally appropriate curricula, health and nutrition services, breakfast, lunch and snacks, as well as special education opportunities and critical family support services. Research shows that low-income children with high-quality early learning experiences such as Head Start are 40% less likely to need special education or be held back a grade later in life; are 30% more likely to graduate from high school; and are twice as likely to attend college.

About WCAC

Since 1965, the Worcester Community Action Council has served as the federally designated anti-poverty agency for central and southern Worcester County, with a mission of helping people move to economic self-sufficiency through programs, partnerships and advocacy.

Serving the City of Worcester and 45 neighboring communities of Auburn, Blackstone, Boylston, Brimfield, Brookfield, Charlton, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Holden, Holland, Hopedale, Hubbardston, Grafton, Leicester, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Monson, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Northborough, Northbridge, Palmer, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge, Wales, Warren, Webster, West Boylston, West Brookfield and Westborough.