CFWNC Awards $139,000 in Focus Area Grants

(May 2015) CFWNC recently approved five focus area grants to support regional projects in Food and Farming and Early Childhood Development.

The Foundation's funding priorities were identified to benefit the region and enable the Foundation to work strategically and deeply in specified areas. Focus area grants are made proactively and reflect significant staff outreach and collaboration with regional nonprofits to identify funding opportunities. "Stewardship of unrestricted funds is an honor, and investing them wisely is what generous donors expect of us," said CFWNC President Elizabeth Brazas. "Three of these five grants support programs that CFWNC has previously invested in because significant change takes time and commitment. Multi-year investing is one tool that allows the foundation to support longer term goals and effective programs across the region."

The following grants were among those approved by the Foundation's Board on May 13.

Food and Farming

The goals of the Foundation's work in Food and Farming are to support the revitalization of a sustainable local food system, to support local farmers and food entrepreneurs and to address food insecurity.

A grant of $29,000 will support MANNA FoodBank's Network Capacity Improvement Project (NCIP). A 2013 CFWNC grant to MANNA for NCIP was funded to help partner agencies in rural communities increase their ability to distribute healthy foods to people in need in WNC. The NCIP has successfully engaged partner agencies in training and one-on-one technical support across 16 counties. MANNA has documented efficiencies in ordering from more than 50 pantries in several counties. Feeding America, a national network of food banks, has asked MANNA to share the NCIP program as a resource for food pantries in rural communities. The new grant will provide technical assistance to partner agencies; assessment of impact of the NCIP; recommendations for next steps in partner capacity development; and dissemination of results and best practices to other partners and other Feeding America food banks. The Ruth L. Yeager/Nancy Yeager Cole Fund partnered with CFWNC to fund this grant.

Early Childhood Development

Through grants, community awareness and advocacy in Early Childhood Development, the Foundation seeks to help young children reach their full potential.

Mountain Area Health Education Center, Inc. (MAHEC) was awarded $10,000 to support the 2015 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Southeastern Summit (the Summit). Decades of neuroscience research on brain development, adversity, toxic stress and resilience show that children exposed to abuse, neglect or household dysfunction can develop behavioral and physical health problems later in life. As the ACE "score" increases, so does the risk for, among other things, alcoholism, COPD, depression, fetal death, liver disease, partner violence, sexually transmitted diseases, adolescent pregnancy and suicide. The Center for Disease Control estimates an economic toll associated with child maltreatment in the billions of dollars. Buncombe County is at the forefront of ACEs work, and the Summit is expected to affect the healthcare, education, law, and mental health sectors in WNC by raising awareness of ACEs and by offering new tools and strategies to reduce the intergenerational transmission of ACEs.

A grant of $10,000 will support the Mitchell-Yancey Partnership for Children's Yancey Early Childhood Initiative (YECI). Funding will be used to develop and implement an Action Plan designed to address the needs of young children in Yancey County identified through the resource mapping process organized by YECI and prioritized by the community. The project includes two basic components: the identification of barriers to young children's ability to realize their potential in Yancey County; and community-wide collaboration to improve access to services to assist children and their families overcome those barriers in measurable and sustainable ways.

Reach Out and Read Carolinas received $15,000 to expand to the new Mission Children's Health clinic in Swain County. The Bryson City clinic will reach 500 children. Reach Out and Read, the most widely studied and disseminated model of early childhood literacy promotion, leverages the trusting relationship between parents and their children's medical providers to ensure that parents infuse literacy in a child's life early and often. Doctors "prescribe" reading in wellness checks from ages 6 months to 5 years and distribute age and culturally appropriate books. Reach Out and Read staff will work with Smart Start in Swain County (Region A Partnership for Children) to bring the evidence-based model to children in Swain County. Reach Out and Read is the only childhood literacy program in the U.S. supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A $75,000 grant to Southwestern Child Development Commission, Inc. will support the third year of work by the Western North Carolina Early Childhood Coalition (the Coalition) to improve access to quality, affordable early childhood education in WNC. The Coalition is advocating for two major public policies for the NC Subsidized Child Care Program: an equitable allocation formula and sustainable funding for child care subsidies to ensure that low-income WNC children are able to access child care; and an equitable county market rate formula which will provide high quality services to all children in North Carolina. Success in adjusting the subsidy formula and allocations policy could have a significant regional impact on low-income children in WNC. The Coalition made substantial progress during the first two years of funding. Long term and measurable improvements in early childhood development cannot be made without effective advocacy, and the Coalition has become a respected and reliable source of that advocacy work in North Carolina.