Advocating for Children’s Health and Nutrition
Written by Board Member Kathleen Lendvay
My son Luke was asked to share a story with his kindergarten class the day after our trip to Olympia, so I drew this diagram to help him remember and communicate some of what he learned. This also served as a powerful reminder to me of the beauty and simplicity of our democracy, and the importance of citizens advocating for what’s important to them.
We were in Olympia to advocate for children’s health and nutrition along with friends and colleagues from WithinReach, where I am proud to serve on the board. WithinReach’s 2014 legislative priorities focus on health and nutrition for children and families in Washington State. These are issues that I enthusiastically support, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss them with my kids.
One in four children in Washington is food insecure; their families can’t be sure where their next meal is coming from. I’m fortunate that my kids are not among those who are going hungry, but this is not “someone else’s problem.” It is our community’s problem. Organizations advocating for children’s nutrition programs often point out that hungry kids can’t learn. Neither can kids with a painful toothache or untreated asthma. Providing robust programs and better connections to those programs in Washington State is the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do, because educators can’t focus their energy on teaching when they’re dealing with behavioral issues that stem from hunger and pain. Luke doesn’t know that almost half of the kids in his school receive free or reduced price lunches and some of them may not get enough to eat at home. But even when the issue is abstract and he’s not envisioning his own friends, he knows that every child should have enough to eat and the ability to see a doctor when they’re sick.
The good news, I told Luke, is that when legislators in Washington vote on bills, they are deciding where to spend the money that we pay in taxes. It’s our money, which gets spent in our state, by our elected representatives. So we have an opportunity – even an obligation – to make sure our legislators know where we want them to focus. We went to Olympia in February with our WithinReach friends to advocate for Washington families.