Massachusetts Early Education and Care: A National Security Imperative during Uncertain Times
Mission: Readiness members and early education leaders discussed the importance of child care and childhood nutrition in Massachusetts
On Wednesday, August 19th, Mission: Readiness members convened a virtual panel discussion to talk about COVID-19’s impact on early childhood education and child nutrition in Massachusetts. The panelists included Major General (Ret.) Mike Hall, U.S. Air Force, Brigadier General (Ret.) Jack Hammond, U.S. Army, Hon. Sal DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader, Massachusetts Senate, and Amy O’Leary, Director, Early Education for All. Mission: Readiness National Director Ben Goodman moderated the discussion.
State Senator Sal DiDomenico began the panel by sharing his perspective on early childhood challenges in the state. COVID-19 has exacerbated issues in the weakened sector, creating problems for Massachusetts kids and their families. He emphasized that child care is not simply babysitting, but a crucial way to ensure children are prepared for future success. Senator DiDomenico asked the participants and listeners to urge their representatives to take actionable steps to preserve early childhood programs.
Brigadier General (Ret.) Jack Hammond echoed the Senator’s remarks, adding that COVID-19 “made a bad situation worse.” General Hammond reminded the panel that there is currently not a state or national strategy to preserve the child care sector and, in turn, our national security. Most young people are disqualified from military services due to a combination of health issues, behavioral problems, or educational deficits. He also explained that opportunities for success, military or otherwise, begin early in life. High-quality child care is a reliable way to ensure that kids are placed on the path to be productive and successful adults, no matter their career path.
Early childhood programs are also important because they often provide a place for children to receive healthy, nutritious meals. Major General (Ret). Mike Hall offered insight into the military challenges caused by the obesity epidemic. General Hall, a farmer, told the panel that “good crops start with good preparation and nutrition.” This analogy is especially poignant because children are more likely to become obese if they do not have access to healthy foods from birth to age five, which is why early preparation is key. General Hall concluded his remarks by encouraging listeners to be a part of the solution on an individual and community level to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition for young people.
Amy O’Leary of Early Education for All concluded the panel by sharing what early childhood advocates like herself are doing to help mitigate COVID-19-related challenges. She said that she has reframed child care to think about keeping both children and staff safe and healthy during the pandemic and beyond. Her main advice to the public is to share information about the pandemic’s impact on child care, ask lawmakers to acknowledge the problem and develop policy to support the sector, and vote in state and local elections.
The Massachusetts panel provided a crucial perspective on the importance of early childhood programs for children, families, and our country. Access to high-quality early education, care, and nutrition help create a stronger nation for all of us.
Full video of the event may be found below