Friends of Fletcher Free Library: Early Childhood Literacy and Prenatal Nutrition Counseling

2022 Grant Amount: $2,500

The goal of this project is to fill the early childhood literacy and pre-/post-natal nutrition gap for low income and New American families to ensure an even start for all families in the Burlington community. Working closely with Champlain Valley Head Start and Fletcher Free Library as the hub for these efforts, we aim to give Head Start Families an early childhood literacy and nutrition-focused box, which will support growth from age 0 to 3. Our intervention builds on the current families serviced by Champlain Valley Head Start.

As current medical students at the UVM Medical School, we came to understand that there is a literacy and nutrition resource gap in the prenatal to 6 months of life age group from speaking to local healthcare providers. Local organizations like Head Start and Fletcher Free Library shared with us the value of an integrated approach to care. Hosting events that address multiple needs can amplify the impact of a project, starting with a series of initiatives we are launching this summer. We understand that the social determinants of health greatly shape development outcomes, especially in vulnerable populations. This project is aimed at tackling two important determinants of health - nutrition and literacy. Our work is grounded in the intention to increase the number of words heard by babies which have been proven to be positive for brain development, language, and speech, in addition to providing the financial resources to buy healthy food necessary for growth.

Each family will receive a box with the following items:

  1. Two Children's Books: We hope to pre-identify the families who will be receiving these baskets to make sure that the books they receive are written in a language that they can understand.
  2. One $100 Gift Card to City Market: We hope that this will cover a grocery trip for a family.
  3. One Healthy Recipe Cookbook: By pre-identifying the families, we hope to supply them each with a culturally relevant cookbook with budget-friendly and easy recipes.
  4. Informational Flyers: We will be working with physicians and nutritionists at the medical center to curate informational flyers regarding nutrition and literacy to include in the boxes.
  5. Age Appropriate Utensils: Some families may not have access to age-appropriate utensils such as sippy cups, bibs, forks and spoons. We would like to provide these families with these tools as they promote independence and help children with their developmental milestones.
  6. Alphabet Blanket: This blanket can be used for changing, napping and playtime as well as expose children to shapes and letters.
  7. Library Card to Fletcher Free Library: This free library card will help build a sustained relationship between families and the library and increase access to literacy resources.

The prenatal period is a historically under-served time period in pregnancy in terms of nutrition and literacy in these families. We have done a literature review as well as spoken to many local pediatricians,obstetricians, and educators to determine the impact value of this project. These professionals have all agreed that this particular population (low-income and New American families) can benefit the most from early intervention. As mentioned, our project is multifaceted - we are hosting events this summer centered around literacy and nutrition at the Fletcher Free Library. We are hoping that this grant can cover the nutritional aspect of our project. Ultimately, we are aiming to tackle multiple social determinants of health (literacy, nutrition, and social connectedness) through a series of targeted interventions.