GAVA (Go Austin Vamos Austin!) is a resident-led health initiative working in Austin’s neighborhoods (78744 and 78745) with highest incidence of childhood obesity to promote family wellness, increase physical activity and improve nutrition and access to healthy food. The initiative works in different areas, called sectors, to address the key factors impacting childhood obesity: parks, schools, food service/quality/availability, out-of-school time and early childhood education.
Laura Olson, Family Support Service Coordinator for United Way for Greater Austin’s Success By 6 team, serves as the Early Childhood Sector Manager for GAVA. She works across the early childhood community to form teams made up of: childcare providers and early childhood teachers, nonprofit providers serving families with young children, home daycare providers, and parents of young children. Teams meet monthly to develop plans and take action toward improving the health of their families and neighborhoods.
One of the childcare providers Olson works with is Little Dudes Learning Center. Little Dudes opened it’s doors in 1961 when Mrs. Ellen Smith recognized the need for childcare in South Austin. Consequently, Little Dudes was the first childcare center to open in Austin, south of the river. Little Dudes has long been seen as providing high quality early education and has been recognized as a Texas Rising Star Four Star Center, a statewide quality certification program.
This past summer, Little Dudes had an old refrigerator that was not cooling properly during their annual health inspection. As a result, they had to pour out gallons of milk and throw away nearly all of their produce, greatly impacting their capacity to provide healthy food for the children they serve.
The GAVA early childhood team at Little Dudes applied for a mini-grant for a new refrigerator, and their application was approved. Funds were provided by the City of Austin Health and Human Services Department and Chronic Disease Prevention to purchase the new refrigerator. This new refrigerator now allows Little Dudes to significantly increase the fresh food they can provide and to properly store milk (including now breast milk for nursing babies).
“It was a true team effort to write the narrative describing their issue and request, to research the kind of refrigeration needed, to create a budget, and finalize all elements of the grant application. Their cooperation and commitment to the health of the children really showed,” says Olson.