Most of us can recall job descriptions with one final ambiguous responsibility, “other duties as assigned,” the grab bag of impromptu work assignments. In other words, do these chores on short notice and often at the expense of other, more meaningful tasks. For me, some of these duties include helping a co-worker convert a document to a PDF, cleaning out the fridge in the break room, making sure the projector is working during a presentation, returning visitors to the airport and orienting junior employees.
Unfortunately, many educators and caregivers would put serving healthy food in that “other duties” category. After-school providers, teachers and recreation programmers already have big jobs to do. Their hands are full in caring for, educating, supervising and enriching our children. They tend to be underpaid and understaffed. And now, the First Lady and local health advocates want them to feed their kids healthier foods?
In Jefferson County, Alabama, two unusual suspects have made it their business to help children by helping caregivers. The United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) and the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama (CFB) have joined forces with the YMCA of Greater Birmingham to improve food options at Y facilities, reaching more than 2,200 children.
Both UWCA and CFB are trusted brokers in their communities, linking donors with non-profits to provide desperately needed social services. While the UWCA and CFB certainly play this connecting role well, both have moved “health champion” out of their “other duties” category. In fact, as Vice President of Community Impact in Health, Kadie Peters’ primary responsibility is to advocate for health across UWCA’s service area. She coordinates the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership’s implementation of national standards for healthy food, vending and physical activity. The Health Action Partnership provides the YMCAs with training, marketing materials and logistics in order to expand the adoption of standards into other organizations serving children in central Alabama.
Similarly, Amanda Storey, CFB’s Assistant Director, embraces her responsibility to help children eat healthy. Amanda helped establish CFB as a hub for healthy snack distribution, an innovative and cost effective system to purchase and supply healthy snacks for community partners, like the YMCA, for its after-school and summer programs. Kadie and Amanda are good friends and collaborators. They have linked arms with other government, business and non-profit agencies, who are also making health advocacy part of their work. The Health Action Partnership provides the collaborative structure and oversight for their work.
We all have our jobs to do. And we can take inspiration from committed, collaborative and optimistic leaders like Kadie and Amanda who help build a healthier community even though they (and their agencies) have so many other priorities. How can you use your job—whether at work, at home, or in your community—to help more children be healthy?