News & Notes:

Community-Driven Effort Leads to Safer Streets in Concord

detroit_ave_800x534A street party is taking place to celebrate a community-driven project that led to $2.7 million in pedestrian safety improvements on Detroit Avenue, one of Concord’s most heavily trafficked streets located in the heart of the Monument community.

The celebration culminates a process that began in 2012, when the Central County Regional Group, a parent advocacy group we train and sponsor, conducted an assessment of walking and biking safety on Detroit Avenue with help from local agencies and elected officials. Detroit Avenue lacked safe sidewalks, bike lanes and crossings, which resulted in a number of collisions in recent years.

The assessment ended up generating millions in grant funding for the City of Concord to make recommended improvements, including:

  • Four-way stop signs (Sunshine Ave, Laguna St, Lynn Ave, Walters Way)
  • Protected crosswalks (Sunshine Ave, Laguna St, Lynn Ave, Walters Way)
  • New extended sidewalks along the busy stretch from Clayton Road to Monument Boulevard
  • New bike lanes including green paving to increase bicyclist visibility and safety
  • 13 new streetlights

The street party celebration, taking place on September 24th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., will feature free family activities, including a bike rodeo, Zumba, cooking demonstrations, and interactive children’s games. Mayor Laura Hoffmeister, Councilmember Edi Birsan, local organizations and residents who participated in the project will speak and participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony. It will take place at Meadow Homes Park (1371 Detroit Ave.).

The project was a result of collaboration among Monument resident leaders, Contra Costa Health Services, the Central County Regional Group, First 5 Contra Costa, Monument Impact, Bike East Bay, Bike Concord, Healthy and Active Before 5, County Connection and the City of Concord.

“Multicultural parents of young children, public health staff, bike activists, and local advocates – we have different perspectives but came together for the safety of our community – and the City of Concord listened,” said Rhea Elina Laughlin, First 5 Contra Costa’s Community Engagement Program Officer. “Now, Detroit Avenue is much safer for children and families.”

The project received funding from local Measure J and Measure Q funds and a $2.2 million One Bay Area Grant. The City of Concord is replicating this community-driven model to inform its new Bicycle, Pedestrian and Safe Routes to Transit Plan.


Expanded Paid Family Leave Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

ca_capitol_800x534Governor Jerry Brown has until September 30 to sign or veto bills sent to him by the legislature. There’s one bill sitting on his desk we’re particularly interested in: SB 654 (formally SB 1166) by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

SB 654, the New Parental Leave Act, would require an employer of 20 or more employees to allow an eligible employee to take up to six weeks of job protected parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement.

This bill prohibits an employer from refusing to maintain and pay for the employee’s continued group health coverage during the duration of the leave. The bill follows the successful enactment of legislation authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) last year, AB 908, which increased the wage replacement rate for workers on Family Leave, with higher percentages for the workers earning the least.

SB 654 passed the Assembly on a fairly narrow vote count. Chambers of Commerce organizations and the business community strongly opposed the measure, but there were a few Republican Women’s Caucus members who helped make the measure successful, including our local Assemblymember Katherine Baker.

California has led the nation on providing paid family leave, and SB 654 will extend this support to even more working families. Let’s hope Governor Brown signs it.

To learn more about the First 5 Association 2015-16 Legislative Agenda, click here.


New Added Sugar Guidelines for Kids

PrintSugar bites – we’ve been saying that for a while now. And the American Heart Association (AHA) agrees.

Earlier this month, the AHA issued its first scientific statement recommending sugar limitations for children, with a particular focus on added sugars – sugars introduced during processing or preparation, not naturally occurring sugars. Added sugar is known (and unknown) by many names: dextrose, fructose, lactose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, barley malt, and honey, to name just a few.

To help kids grow up healthy, the AHA is recommending that children consume less than six teaspoons of added sugar per day. That’s about 25 grams of sugar. Most children, according to the experts who wrote the statement, consume about three times as much sugar, putting them at greater risk for obesity, type II diabetes, dental caries, hypertension and other health problems later in life.

The AHA also recommended that children and teens limit sugar-sweetened beverages to only eight ounces weekly. A can of soda is 12 ounces and has about 40 grams of sugar, so even that is too much. Sugary beverages include soda, fruit and sports drinks, sweetened teas and energy drinks.

As for babies and toddlers, the AHA recommends that children under the age of two not consume any food or beverages with added sugars. Because children this young don’t eat and drink as many calories as older children, it is important to make sure the food and beverages they do consume are nutritious. Also, taste preferences are established early in life, so it’s better to limit sweets when children are young.

It can be tricky to determine how much added sugar is in food and drinks. But starting in July 2018, manufacturers will be required to list the amount of added sugars in food. Checking food labels, reducing sugary drinks, and serving kids fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat, poultry and fish are proven ways to reduce added sugar in your family’s diet.

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Message from Sean

Sean_Casey_220x147We’ve been working to improve early childhood experiences for nearly 20 years – and new research shows it’s paying off.

Last week, researchers from Stanford University released new data comparing 40,000 children who started kindergarten in 1998, 2006, and 2010. They found that children from the poorest and wealthiest families improved in early literacy and math assessments. Despite the Great Recession and growing inequality in the country, children in poverty made the largest gains.

The lead researcher said the achievement gap is closing “not because schools are getting more equal, but because something in early childhood is becoming more equal.”  According to researchers, the leveling force may be parents.

Thanks to campaigns like those First 5 California conducts, more parents and caregivers understand how very young children learn and develop. Low-income parents are taking a more active role when it comes to reading, playing, and exploring fun places more with their children. We’re seeing comparable results in our programs. After attending First 5 Center activities for one year, there was a 36% increase in the number of parents reading to their children daily.

Another likely reason for the narrowing achievement gap is the fact more low-income children are enrolled in high-quality child care programs. Two new studies on Head Start confirm the impact that program made on recipients, as students and later in life. One study compared siblings and found those who attended Head Start were more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

Publicly funded programs like Head Start and the California State Preschool Program offer some of the richest, best quality care available, and low-income children and families benefit. We’ve rated and supported dozens of these programs in our Quality Matters child care rating and improvement system. Most of these state and federally funded programs earn the highest quality ratings.

Parent by parent and preschool by preschool, early learning is improving for young children. This is progress. But just think of the impact far-reaching policies – quality preschool for all, infant home visiting, public school reform, paid family leave, and more – would have on all children and families. That’s sustainable progress.