We Commit…continued

In June, we added our voices to the many organizations around the country who pledged to join the fight to end systemic racism. As we continue to see violent and racist attacks against the Black community, we must remain steadfast in our pledge to be anti-racist, recognize and acknowledge white privilege, and stand with Black Lives Matter. We understand that only love, listening, understanding and action will lead to real change.

Children from Black, Latinx and Native American families are more likely to live in homes with higher unemployment and lower incomes than children from white families. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these inequities lead to an increased risk for health problems and make it much more likely that they will receive less and lower-quality education.

Covid-19 has placed a spotlight on the health disparities caused by these inequities. According to the CDC, Black people are hospitalized due to COVID-19 at a rate of 4.7 times higher and are 2.1 times more likely than white people to die of the disease due to higher rates of underlying conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Conditions that we have been actively fighting against for 20 years.

Our mission is empowering healthy habits and transforming environments where children live, learn and play. According to Feeding America, poverty rates for Black Americans are more than twice that of White, non-Hispanic Americans—leading to higher levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Two-thirds of the children and families we serve are members of the Black community. The first step in combatting a problem is understanding the problem. To truly empower and transform, we need to fully understand the complex history and underlying causes that led to such a heart-breaking statistic.

We are fully committed to making meaningful, impactful change—and we understand that it begins with us. Over the past several weeks, we’ve made some organizational changes in preparation to be of better service to our staff and the teachers, parents and children that we serve:

We are educating ourselves on issues facing Black and Brown communities to better understand how to be proactive and solution-focused. We have instituted a Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The committee will hold monthly, staff lead and inspired discussion sessions designed to create a “brave space” to openly engage in conversations about race issues, offer support to our Black and Brown team members and provide anti-racism resources for all. Our first meeting was this month. The committee guided staff through a series of questions designed to begin the needed culture shift and set expectations for moving forward.

Our Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team have developed strategies for both board recruitment and staff hiring to ensure our organization is more reflective of the children and families we serve. Tactics include seeking recruitment help from outside organizations and utilizing the networks of racial and ethnically diverse professional associations. We will also be intentional as we fill new positions and vacancies to ensure we maintain a diverse staff across all lines: educational, areas of expertise, gender, ethnicity, etc.

The board has started to use a composition matrix. This is a useful tool that helps members clearly visualize the current makeup of the board, identify holes in representation, skillsets and inform recruitment efforts.

Here’s a downloadable template similar to the one that our board has found so helpful.

We are revising our external messaging to amplify Black and Brown voices and raise awareness. We will be more explicit in how we frame the problem, how health inequities impact our communities and how we are actively putting in the work to contribute to overcoming these problems. You will start to see more information on our social channels, website and newsletters.

These steps are just the beginning. We will continue to update you on our journey.

We’re in this for the long haul.