W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grant to Improve Infant Health Outcomes With Community Approach

Detroit-based Metro Solutions receives multi-year, $425,000 grant to fund community-based breastfeeding initiative


Metro Solutions, a Detroit-based non-profit fiscal intermediary, has partnered with three nationally recognized infant health and community engagement experts who will launch an innovative pilot project to improve community support for breastfeeding, and thereby improve infant and maternal health outcomes in cities across America.

The project, the First Food Friendly Community Initiative, is funded by a $425,000 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and is guided by the premise that the first food—breast milk—with its unparalleled immunological and preventative health properties, is the earliest and most optimal intervention point for improving the likelihood of healthier infants and children. The 2 ½ year project, which will include pilots in Detroit and Philadelphia, aims to create more supportive “first food friendly” community environments for mothers and infants by identifying on-the-ground partners and targeting local agencies, establishments, faith-based institutions and residents for multi-pronged coordinated strategies. These strategies stretch beyond traditional health interventions and include economic and workforce development components. By eradicating “deserts” of support and removing common barriers to increased breastfeeding with comprehensive community-led interventions, infants and the families that care for them can have more healthful and empowered lives.

Kimberly Seals Allers, a leading advocate and consultant on breastfeeding, Kiddada Green , founder of the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association and Duane Kinnon, a management consultant with over three decades experience in non-profit and health and human services will spearhead the community-based work. Ruth Rashid Kaleniecki, a licensedsocial worker currently focused on community engagement around early childhood education, will serve as Metro Solutions’ grants director.

“We are delighted to work with such respected leaders in the field whose work dovetails perfectly with our commitment to advance community well-being and to add another WKKF grant to our growing portfolio as we provide fiduciary management and support for community service providers,” says Rose Khalifa, executive director of Metro Solutions, which creates strategic financial partnerships with health care systems, non-profit foundations, universities, social service agencies, and local municipalities.

“For years, we have been saying that hospitals are only step one and that women need more supportive environments where they work, play, eat and worship in order to have meaningful breastfeeding success. This grant from the Kellogg Foundation allows us to continue working on making that a reality for more mothers and babies and to develop a nationally scalable model,” says Seals Allers, who will serve as project director. “It is exciting to partner with Metro Solutions, who have a proven commitment to community health, on this project.”

About the FFCI Team: Kimberly Seals Allers is a nationally recognized media commentator, consultant and advocate for breastfeeding and infant health. As a consultant, Kimberly has led ground-breaking community-based projects in the southeast and Philadelphia that explore the impact of “first food deserts”—communities that severely lack or have inaccessible resources to support mothers who choose to breastfeed—and examining how to transform these areas into more breastfeeding supportive environments. A former IATP Food & Community Fellow, her advocacy work also centers on rethinking childhood nutrition and preventative health as beginning at birth with the optimal first food—breast milk.  Kiddada Green is the founding executive director of Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA), co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week and sits on the advisory council of the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, Women’s eNews Black Maternal Health and Wayne Children’s Healthcare Access Program.  Mrs. Green works tirelessly to increase breastfeeding rates for African Americans, and contributed recommendations for The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. She is committed to supporting families, and training public health workers on cultural competence in breastfeeding support.  Duane Kinnon, president & CEO of the Kinnon Group, LLC, is a leader in community engagement and nonprofit management with more than 30 years of human service experience working with global organizations like the Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club of America, the YMCA and YWCA, institutions of higher learning, state education departments, various school districts, Parks & Recreation Departments, Public Housing Authorities and faith-based organizations. Mr. Kinnon has a long-standing track record strengthening communities to better serve vulnerable youth and families with high quality, researched-based programming.


About Metro Solutions: A Wayne County, Michigan non-profit organization, Metro Solutions, was established in 2003 to provide organizational and operational support to tax-exempt hospitals, to form strategic partnerships with health care supporters and sponsors statewide, and to fund and promote programs that deliver quality health care to the uninsured and underinsured in the metro Detroit area. It has since expanded its capabilities beyond healthcare to support the efforts of non-profit foundations, universities, social service agencies, and local municipalities.

About WKKF: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

New government website offers employers creative workplace solutions for nursing moms

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three of four women start off breastfeeding soon after giving birth, but there is a steep decline in numbers by six months and even steeper decline of children being breastfed by the age of one. Going back to work is a common barrier for mothers, who have to balance (and master) nurturing their child and making a living. Many employers do not have supportive policies or suitable pumping spaces in place.

However, a new government website seeks to address that. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health introduced WomensHealth.gov, a website offering online resources about breastfeeding while working. The site was developed in conjunction with the Society for Human Resource Management.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide new mothers with time and a private place to pump and breastfeed during work hours. The website was developed as a resource to assist businesses in implementing this law.

Nancy C. Lee, M.D., director of the Office on Women’s Health, stated in a press release “We know that many employers want to support their employees, not just because it’s required, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

The site features 28 videos of “creative solutions” employers can use to ensure they’re giving nursing mothers the time and space (other than the bathroom) they need to provide their baby with their nutritional needs.


Michigan Gov Signs Law to Protect Nursing in Public

On June 24th, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan signed the “Breast feeding Anti-Discrimination Act”, which gives women the right to nurse a child in any place that is open to the general public, including stores, restaurants and municipal buses.

Under the law, owners and operators cannot deny goods, services, facilities, advantages or accommodations to any woman simply because she is nursing. They also cannot post signs prohibiting public breastfeeding.

Woman subjected to discrimination because of breastfeeding can file a civil lawsuit  seeking actual or presumed damages. The court could also reward reimbursement for legal fees.

Breastfeeding is a “natural act with many proven benefits,” said Synder. He also stated supporting new mothers would ensure good infant health and reduce infant mortality rates. Health experts say Michigan ranks in the bottom third of States for breastfeeding rates and normalizing breastfeeding would be very beneficial for babies.

The law is hugely supported by State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Harbor. She stated early Tuesday, “We hope that with Gov. Synder’s signature on this bill today, we will start a culture change so that our mothers feel comfortable nursing their babies wherever they’re allowed to be.”

Black Doulas Needed: How to Counter the Impact of Systematic Racism on Birth Outcomes

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the U.S. infant mortality rate is the highest among selected states in the South and Midwest regions. In 2010, 13 states and the District of Columbia had infant mortality rates of 7.00–7.99, and two additional states (Mississippi and Alabama) had infant mortality rates of 8.00 or higher.

According to recent studies, systemic racism in America is negatively impacting the health of pregnant black women by creating stress over load on their system which is affecting the health of babies. Black babies are being born too soon and too small, and lack the option of being breastfed, as result of stress.

Evidence shows that when a pregnant woman, alone or with a partner, employs culturally competent doula services, it can help reduce her stress and reduce premature and low birth weight babies. These are the two main indicators for the higher infant mortality rate in the black community, regardless of educational status. Having a doula can reduce the risk of a caesarean section, medical intervention, aid in shorter labors, increase breastfeeding in the first hour after birth, and create a feeling of satisfaction with the birth experience by both parents (unnatural causes/when the bough breaks.)

We can improve the pregnancy and birth experience for families by having more black women trained as doulas to offer services. The ICTC doula training teaches the causes and solutions to reduce black infant mortality, offers a dual certification as a birth and postpartum doula, and teaches the midwifery model of care, entrepreneurial skills, and leadership. The ICTC has been training Full Circle Doulas® since 2012, with over 1,500 trained and 85% are women of color. The ICTC is the leading doula training organization in the world for health equity, cultural competency and teaching the legacy of the African American midwife as a public health model, to improve birth outcomes and support healthy parenting.

Founded in 1991, the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) is a non-profit infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion and doula training organization. Their mission is to increase the number of midwives, doulas, and healers of color, to empower families to reduce infant and maternal mortality.

A doula is a Greek word and it means woman helper or birth companion. It is a growing profession in the US, but there is a shortage of black doulas. The ICTC is traveling across the nation to close the gap by training more doulas to address the CDC statistics. This year the ICTC will train in IL, MS, AL, MD, VA, NY, WI and NJ.

Train as an ICTC Doula and help save babies and build a new career. Healthy babies are everyone’s business.

Contact the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) and join their free-e-news for training updates and to learn more at www.ictcmidwives.org or 503-460-9324.

New Micro-Doc Highlights Communities Knocking Down Barriers to Breastfeeding in Detroit

A powerful new micro-documentary produced by Detroit’s Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association uncovers breastfeeding roadblocks and successful ways to overcome historical, societal and social barriers to breastfeeding success.  The compelling video, Knocking Down Barriers: Reclaiming the Tradition, highlights some key barriers for women from the idea of locking up infant formula which makes it feel like a precious commodity to the unscrupulous marketing practices of grocery stores who offer freebies with formula purchases, women are being fed conflicting messages that impact infant health.  Despite these obstacles, the video shows the community of Detroit works together to overcome these system barriers. Watch the eye-opening micro-doc here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AvUqz5sW7w&feature=youtu.be

Learn more about Black Mother’s Breastfeeding Association .

Why Transforming First Food Deserts to First Food Friendly Communities Matters

By Kimberly Seals Allers

In 2006, Mari Gallagher used the concept of a “food desert” to transform how we think about food access. Gallagher’s work studying access to supermarkets in Detroit and the health implications thereof, sparked the slow ascent of the term “food desert” into the American vernacular.  In 2012, the First Lady has made elimination of food deserts an anchor element of her broader “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity.

And while the term “desert” has come under some criticism since a desert is in fact a thriving ecosystem, we use the term in recognition of the severe sense of “lack” present in these communities.  A desert lacks rain, and has extremely limited vegetation and food options.  We use the term in acknowledgement that in first food deserts, infants are limited, at times stunted, and facing systemic barriers to their fullest potential.  Furthermore, we use the term most significantly in its verb form as in “to abandon; to withdraw from without intent to return,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. In this understanding of the word, we see an important dimension, heretofore missing from the breastfeeding conversation.  That is, for a woman to successfully breastfeed we must also and perhaps first, address the systemic failures and the “lack” in her community.

Our initial exploration of key cities in states with low breastfeeding rates, specifically Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, uncovered consistent similarities in uneven opportunities, risks, resources, and community sentiment, which can be viewed as key identifying factors in communities with low breastfeeding rates.  This work, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, makes a significant contribution to the breastfeeding landscape by demonstrating that where you live makes a considerable difference in your likelihood to breastfeed and your likelihood and ability to continue breastfeeding. This is noteworthy, because previous efforts at increasing breastfeeding rates particularly among low-income and African American women, have primarily focused on messaging. That is, “what” is being said to these women, with little understanding of their community environment, and minimal consideration to the “where” and the impact of “place” as a determinant of breastfeeding success. This focus on messaging has had some success in increasing initiation rates but negligible success at increasing duration—which is where the preventative medicine of breast milk really take hold.

The findings of this exploratory pilot project suggest that there are common defining elements in first food deserts, some concrete some nuanced, all of which show that communities where breastfeeding is stunted, have patterns and commonalities. By addressing, acknowledging and naming these “deserts” we can better address the infant health and wellness challenges also common in these communities.  By clarifying the “lacks” in these neighborhoods, we can better fill in the gaps.

New Community Lactation Station Opens in Brooklyn, NYC; Hosts ‘Know Your Rights’ Workshops

Photo credit: The Brooklyn Reader http://www.bkreader.com/tag/community-lactation-station/

New York City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.unveiled his new constituent services office in Bedford-Stuyvestant, Brooklyn which includes a new Community Lactation Station for breastfeeding moms. The constituent services offices, located in Restoration Plaza,  provides help with education, housing, landlord/tenant, and quality of life issues for the residents of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. And now moms have a local place to nurse their babies while on the go and working moms in the area have an easily accessible pumping location.

 Council Member Cornegy, a father of six school aged children, is a staunch supporter of the Pregnant Worker Protection Act and the New York City Health Department’s Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ) Project, which services Bedford-Stuyvesant. Breastfeeding reduces a mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding also reduces an infant’s risk of ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, and asthma, and promotes maternal bonding and optimal growth and development.
The Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone, funded in part by the WK Kellogg Foundation, is a community-based initiative to support moms in Bedford Stuyvesant and Brownsville who are interested in breastfeeding. This will be done by providing in-home breastfeeding support and counseling to new mothers and providing education and support to new fathers. The Health Department will also work with local businesses and faith- and community-based organizations to establish spaces where women can breastfeed.
As a part of a multifaceted strategy to promote breastfeeding, the Health Department also partners with maternity hospitals and birthing centers, runs a text messaging campaign called Mobile Milk, and offers two home visiting programs, the Newborn Home Visiting Program and Nurse-Family Partnership, to educate and support breastfeeding mothers before and after delivery. It also produces a number of breastfeeding educational materials that are available through 311. For more information, visit nyc.gov/health and search for “breastfeeding.”
In partnership with the Health Department, the new District Office will be hosting a series of Know Your Rights workshops to educate employers, employees and community residents about breastfeeding. Workshops for employees will be held on Wednesday, March 19th and Wednesday, April 9th from 8 to 10 a.m. Workshops for employees and community residents will be held on Wednesday, March 26 and Wednesday, April 23 from noon to 2:00 p.m.
 Going forward, regular hours for the district office will be 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with evening hours each Thursday until 8:00 p.m. and Saturday hours the first weekend of every month from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m..

Every Child. Every Mother. Every One of Us: Recap of The First Food Forum

This month, over 150 advocates, researchers, policy makers, medical practitioners gathered in San Antonio, Texas for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s First Food Forum. The goal: to make sure every infant has equitable access to the most healthful first food–breast milk. Attendees shared best practices, reviewed emerging research, reinforced personal connections and took a monster Selfie of Oscar-worthy proportions.

Check out the recap of the First Food Forum here (Selfie included!):

Watch all the powerful speaker videos here:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXjR388C7yiBnXMtgYuDQL4nUWxkDiMh-

Like PowerPoints? Check out all the conference materials here: http://conferences.wkkf.org/firstfoodforum/

More of a picture person? Have a look at the amazing photos at the WKKF Flickr page:

Here’s a preview:

Words of Wisdom: Early Childhood Success Needs a Life Course Perspective

To create communities that are truly first food friendly, we need a life course perspective.
“We (at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation) have a deep understanding of children from a life course perspective. We know how important the life experiences of parents are in shaping the experience of a child. We also understand the impact of childhood adversity that results from the circumstances and conditions in a child’s life. There are toxins, in society and in a child’s physical environment, that can have a negative cumulative effect. We do all we can to mitigate that.

“One example is our emphasis on breastfeeding–what we call ‘first food.’ We know that the human need for social interaction is as fundamental as our need for food, air and water. Neurologically, we are wired for socialization. So the precious time that a mother spends nursing her child not only feeds the body, but the heart and soul. It begins with a pattern of interaction that will make the child healthier and more resilient.”

–Gail Christopher, vice president, program strategy at WKKF (excerpt from the WKKF 2013 Annual Report: Understanding Vulnerable Children: Who Knows What About Early Childhood?)