Location: Lancaster, PA
Lancaster Early Education Center (LEEC), which serves 100 children ages 8 weeks through 5 years old, is committed to providing affordable, healthy, high-quality early care and education to children from low-income working families in Lancaster City. With a strong focus on child and staff wellness programming for over three years, LEEC educators have used technical assistance and SNAP-Ed resources to implement a series of Farm to ECE strategies to promote healthy eating, physical activity and access to fresh local foods.
“Parents often equate healthy eating with organic or expensive foods. We want to break that myth,” explains Madeline Reynolds, Director and Farm to ECE champion at LEEC. “Lancaster City is surrounded by many bountiful farms. Healthy, fresh food can be affordable.” To increase awareness of local sources for affordable, fresh foods, LEEC hosts educational field trips to the neighboring central farmers market and has partnered with a local grocery store’s nutritionist to host family workshops and fun classroom nutrition education. The center also hosts cooking demos, taste tests and distributes healthy, affordable recipes for families to take home.
LEEC has also integrated Farm to ECE into its teaching curriculum using STEM and literacy activities to introduce fresh foods, grow herb gardens and cook together in the classroom. LEEC educators are happy to see positive changes in the childrens’ behavior and academic performance as they decrease sugar intake, increased physical activity and healthier diets among children.