As we near the end of sunshiny summer days, we reflect on a transformative season filled with impactful efforts by our Healthi Kids Coalition.

Healthy Learning Environments:

We partnered with schools like 10, 54, 33, and 19, enhancing back-to-school events with wholesome snacks and invigorating physical activities. Our dialogue with key decision-makers like the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent ensured recess will once again be a regular part of the elementary school day for the 2023-2024 year. The Department of Health and PE is crafting a new plan for adapted PE, aligning with our holistic health focus, to ensure all students have time for active play regardless of ability. Our influence even stretched statewide as we shared the importance of play for all students, irrespective of their backgrounds, during a crucial call that united individuals from all corners of New York.

Equitable Communities:

Collaborating on the Arnett Blvd Complete Streets Makeover, we helped create pedestrian-friendly streets and sidewalks. Our impact rippled citywide, contributing to the equitable City of Rochester Active Transportation Plan. We championed access to healthy foods throughout our region through the Food Policy Council. Our commitment extended to the "Healthy R-Center Bill of Rights," ensuring optimal facilities and nutrition for our youth. Statewide, we advanced food access and safety through coalitions and maintained our connection with the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning.

The Power of Play:

With the Department of Recreation and Human Services, we are finalizing locations for 10 new, vibrant play streets for the fall. PlayROCs Your Neighborhood took a break due to staffing changes, but our advocacy committee engaged the community through pop-up play events, tabling, and the Rescue Recess petition. We rallied for Kaboom's 25 in 5 Initiative, advocated for a play fund, and organized the Playful Learning Summit with The Strong National Museum of Play, which took place on August 21. We also worked on playful sidewalks at Grand Avenue Park and infrastructure and safety improvements near School 2. Additionally, the book Play in a COVID Frame dedicates an entire chapter to of our resident leaders and staff members who resiliently worked on play during the pandemic.

Early Childhood Foundations:

We began work on an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) awareness campaign to spread knowledge about early relationships and development across Rochester. We began work on a new project with NYS Council on Children and Families to ensure IECMH training across the state centers race equity. We’ve continued to champion the licensure of speech language pathology assistants to ensure that kids in Early Intervention (EI) and preschool special education receive the speech services they need without having to wait months for services. We supported the Children’s Agenda’s Kids Can't Wait Campaign to raise EI reimbursement rates, and our presence at the NYSB5 Parent Leadership Conference highlighted the role of fathers in infant and early childhood health. We also advocated for equitable reimbursement for doula care, recognizing its role in maternal perinatal health.

General Staff Updates:

We experienced some dynamic changes and additions this quarter: Melanie Funchess became Director of Mental Health and Wellness for Common Ground Health, which led to our Healthy Schools Coordinator, Alicia Evans, joining her team as Mental Health and Wellness Program Coordinator. We are so grateful to Alicia for her eight years of service to Healthi Kids! Carter Remy joined as PlayROCs Coordinator, the position formerly held by Beatriz LeBron, and Candice Williams joined us as Healthy Schools Coordinator. Summer welcomed Rose Evans, an intern contributing to IECMH and play-related work. Anticipation builds for upcoming presentations at the Food Policy Summit, American Public Health Association Conference, and National Recreation and Parks Association Conference, reaffirming our commitment to healthier futures.