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Uplifting Community Health & Wellness in Milwaukee with Good Food for All

Ruby Grisby in her office. Ruby Grisby, fondly called ‘Nana’ by the children in her care, has been educating and caring for children for nearly 50 years and knows a thing or two about the importance of healthy eating and the impact it has on learning.

“Healthy eating is the key cornerstone in early learning,” said Ruby. “A child cannot concentrate and may have difficulties learning if they are hungry.”

She and her husband, Melvin, own Grisby’s Child Development Center in Wisconsin where they care for children as young as 4 weeks old up to 13 years old, most of whom live within the inner city of Milwaukee.

By offering high-quality childcare and resources for families, Grisby’s Child Development Center plays a vital role in the health and wellness of the community they serve. “One of my favorite things about my work, besides the children, is being able to assist parents and guardians with everything from basic needs to learning more about how children develop,” said Ruby.

In September of 2021, Ruby had the opportunity to provide families with boxes of fresh, high-quality produce for 12 weeks through PHA’s Good Food for All program in coordination with Wisconsin’s Farm to Early Care and Education initiative.

Like millions of families across the country, the pandemic impacted many of the families in Ruby’s care. “The pandemic put a large amount of stress on our community,” said Ruby. “Parents and caregivers were worried about no longer being able to provide for their families.”

But Ruby asserts that not only did the Good Food for All program provide temporary stress relief to the families in her care, it opened up a plethora of learning opportunities around healthy eating and learning with parents and children.

“Our parents stretched their imaginations when it came to using the fruits and vegetables in the boxes,” explained Ruby. “Cooking unfamiliar foods – such as squash, zucchini, and rutabaga – was challenging at first. However, with the recipes included in the boxes and some coaching from me and my staff, parents and guardians were willing to try new things and found them to be very tasty.”

As for the children, they were willing to try different vegetables when Ruby and her team made it a learning experience at school. “Our staff presented the kids with a show and tell,” said Ruby. “Kids were shown the vegetable before and after it was cooked. This approach made the new foods easier and more exciting to try.”

And the staff felt good knowing that the children were receiving fresh, nutritious foods.

People like Ruby and her team at Grisby’s Child Development Center are uplifting the health and wellness of the communities they serve while pushing us to keep striving toward a future where every family - in every zip code - has access to long-lasting healthy food.

Interview and story creation by Danika Laine Brubaker. A collaboration of Kids Forward and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the AHA’s Voices for Healthy Kids.

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