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June 10, 2014

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With Food, Hope, and Cookie Monster

By Sesame Workshop


This post is by Enid A. Borden, Founder, President and CEO of the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger.

By the time we arrived to set up for our special event on May 17, families were already lined up and waiting in the parking lot. My foundation, the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH), was hosting a healthy eating event for the community of McDowell County, WV, and the families were waiting for the moment when they would finally see the star they knew about but never dreamed they would actually meet – Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.

Our Healthy Food, Healthy Fun, Healthy Future event, which marked the conclusion of a year-long, intergenerational nutrition education project underwritten by a grant from the Walmart Foundation, encouraged all the people of McDowell County to celebrate and practice the healthy lifestyle habits we had been teaching to many of them. After enjoying a free, nutritious lunch, families visited our special farmers market where they could learn how they could easily incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their meals. Each family left the market with a complimentary bag of produce consisting of fresh kale, tomatoes, corn on the cob, apples, zucchini and dried pinto beans.

As the adults visited the market, a local radio station that was on site for the event kept children dancing, while they waited in line for their turn to jump in the bounce house and race each other around an inflatable racetrack on oversized tricycles.  There were many things to see and do, but nothing so engaged and delighted old and young alike as meeting Cookie Monster. When the children saw Cookie, they ran to him, hugged him tightly and stayed by his side.  It was clear that they craved affection, and Cookie was a safe one to approach first. Before long, one little girl ran over to me and took a flying leap into my arms too. These children deserve more than they get most days. That Saturday was different.

Make no mistake about it. Most of the parents and grandparents are doing their best to provide for the children, but there isn’t much in the way of opportunities and resources to make that possible in this isolated County. McDowell County, WV, is the poorest in West Virginia and one of the poorest counties in the nation. In McDowell County, nearly three out of five children live in a home with no biological parent present. This leaves many grandparents with the daunting task of raising their grandchildren with limited resources and without adequate access to affordable, nutritious food. NFESH-commissioned research shows that grandparents living in a home with a grandchild are two times more likely to face the threat of hunger than their peers who do not reside in a home with a grandchild. That, combined with widespread poverty, unemployment, a prevalence of illegal drugs and prescription drug abuse, the shortest life expectancies in the nation, and geographic isolation, leave the wonderful people of McDowell with little time and room for fun in their lives.

Our day of celebration of healthy eating brought them that, but it also delivered much more. It gave them hope and showed them how simple it could be to begin moving, one step and bite at a time, to a healthier life. Children and adults were introduced to healthy foods they had never eaten before and thanks to our friends at Sesame Workshop the children were able to spend memorable time with Cookie Monster, not just a favorite character but a hero and a friend. His long journey to meet them symbolized what the whole event was designed to show them –   that people in and outside of the community cared about them, their happiness and their future.

At NFESH we are dedicated to ending senior hunger, and we know that the best way to end senior hunger is to prevent it in the first place. By educating children about balanced meals and how to read nutrition labels and unit pricing, we are giving them the tools and knowledge they need to make healthy and budget-friendly purchasing decisions when they get older. Sesame Street’s multimedia outreach initiative Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget was given to every family at the event. Parents and children were extremely grateful to receive this kit designed to help support families who have children between the ages of two and eight, cope with uncertain or limited access to affordable and nutritious food. The grandparents were thankful for the educational materials, and the children were excited to have a book that showed Cookie Monster’s friends. The families also received Sesame Street’s Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me kit.

With every trip to McDowell, we leave a little piece of our hearts behind. We have seen the poverty and despair, but we have also seen the impact our projects have on the people, and we are committed to helping the people of the County. This would not be possible without the incredible support we’ve received from our partners. Sesame Workshop has provided the families of McDowell County with more than just tools to help the children learn to lead healthier lives; the families have been given a memory they will carry with them for years. And that’s a reason to smile.

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Making Everyday Challenges into Learning Moments

By Graydon Gordian


Children need to learn much more than numbers and letters to achieve their full potential. They need to develop healthy eating habits. They need to respect and understand children who are different than they are. And they need to be resilient enough to handle the challenges, emotional and otherwise, that life throws at them.

Many people think that resilience is an innate part of a child’s personality, but by helping children cope with the challenges that come their way, children can actually learn the skills they need to build resilience.  That’s why Sesame Workshop is expanding its Little Children, Big Challenges initiative to include tips and strategies for everyday challenges.  Read More

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October 10, 2013

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The State of STEM Education: an Online Panel

By Graydon Gordian


For years the United States’ position as a global leader in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the STEM subjects – has been in jeopardy. Children in countries around the world are consistently outperforming U.S. students in the STEM subjects. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, 60 percent of the new jobs created in the coming years will require STEM-related skillsets that only 20 percent of the population possesses.

It is imperative that our children be better prepared to achieve academically and professionally in the fields of science and math. That is why, for years, teaching STEM has been a central element of Sesame Workshop’s curriculum. While we do not often associate the STEM subjects with early education, there are ways we can prepare our children for the type of critical thinking and curiosity that are essential if a person is going to achieve in science and math later on in life. That’s why Sesame Workshop created Little Discoverers: Big Fun with Science, Math and More, a digital, interactive destination will include games, engaging videos, and hands-on activities aimed at inspiring young children to laugh and smile while they incorporate STEM concepts into everyday moments.

As part of our effort to encourage STEM education at an early age, Rocio Galarza, Sesame Workshop’s senior director of family and community engagement, will be participating in an online panel hosted by Teach for America, titled “Opportunities in STEM Education.” We encourage you to join in on the conversation.

In order to view and participate in the webinar, which beings at 8 p.m. EST this evening, click here.

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September 24, 2013

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Sesame Street Brings STEM Education to the Web with Little Discoverers

By Graydon Gordian


In every child there is a little scientist, eager to explore the world around him or her. Merely throwing a rock or a paper boat into a pond to see whether it sinks or floats is in many ways a tiny little science investigation, capable of sparking a child’s imagination and bringing a smile to his or her face.

Yet despite the many ways in which children are naturally curious about science and nature, in the United States there is still a pressing need to improve education for the STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. While those may sound like advanced subjects, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests it is critical to introduce certain STEM concepts to children while they are young.

That is why Sesame Workshop is excited to announce the launch of Little Discoverers: Big Fun with Science, Math and More. This digital, interactive destination will include games, engaging videos, and hands-on activities aimed at inspiring young children to laugh and smile while they incorporate STEM concepts into everyday moments. And of course, no exploration of what makes science and math fun would be complete without some help from the beloved Sesame Street Muppets.  Read More

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September 17, 2013

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Sesame Street’s Food for Thought Initiative in Action

By Celia Ruiz


Celia Ruiz is a bilingual community outreach specialist for UnitedHealthcare Community and State in Overland Park, Kansas. Through her work she uses Sesame Street’s Food for Thought kit and was kind enough to write about it. To learn more about the ways Sesame Workshop promotes healthy eating in under-served communities, click here.

work for UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of  Kansas.  We have partnered with Sesame Street’s Food for Thought program as a way to help our families live healthier lives.  I have been fortunate enough to present this program to children and their families in medical clinics, health departments, Head Start programs and community events. Read More

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August 29, 2013

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‘There is Hope’: An inmate’s account of the Sesame incarceration Initiative

By Ander Pearce


Ander Pearce and his family

Sesame Street’s newest community engagement initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, was created to comfort and reassure children who have an incarcerated parent as well as provide language and guidance to their caregivers. Since its release, the initiative has been making a real impact on the lives of families and children affected by incarceration across the country. In order to get these materials into the hands of those families that need them most, Sesame Workshop partnered with the Florida Department of Corrections, the third largest corrections system in the United States, to distribute these resources. We recently participated in two events to help distribute incarceration kits to families in Florida: an event produced in partnership with the Florida Department of Corrections at Polk Correctional Facility on July 13th, and an event produced in partnership with Bridges of America at the Orlando Bridge Transition Center on August 10th.

Life-sized versions of our beloved Sesame Street characters came to both events and helped make the day especially memorable for inmates and their families. In order to share just how special these events can be, we asked Ander Pearce, an inmate at the Orlando Bridge Transition Center, to write about the experience he and his family had at the August 10th event with Bridges of America. The Workshop would like to thank Mr. Pearce for taking the time to contribute to our blog.  Read More

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UnitedHealthcare and Sesame Workshop Partner to Promote Healthy Eating Habits

By Graydon Gordian


It’s not enough to just make healthy food choices for our children. We have to get them excited about healthy food like fruits and vegetables so that they establish lifelong healthy habits. That’s why UnitedHealthcare and Sesame Workshop have come together to produce a 30-second public service announcement (PSA) entitled “Eat a Rainbow.”

The segment, which features Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, Senior Medical Advisor to the United Health Foundation, and Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby, encourages children to eat food that comes in a variety of colors: oranges, bananas, blueberries, green beans and tomatoes. By including all the colors of the rainbow, children can have fun while learning how to have a balanced diet. The PSA is part of Healthy Habits for Life, a partnership between Sesame Workshop and UnitedHealthcare that includes bilingual (English/Spanish) educational materials that encourage children to eat healthy and help parents make fruits and vegetables fun for their children.

To learn more about the work Sesame Workshop and UnitedHealthcare do to make sure children grow up healthy and happy, click here.

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August 08, 2013

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America’s National Parks: The Perfect Place Families

By National Park Service


We all know that huge benefits come with getting your kids outdoors. Being outside provides an outlet for limitless energy and feeds ravenous curiosity, and studies have shown it may even improve performance in school. Yet, children today spend only half as much time in unstructured outdoor activity as their parents did when they were growing up. Getting outside can be a fun-filled way to inject learning and healthy activity into a child’s life, two things that our new partner,Sesame Street, is always eager to encourage.

If you’re looking for a sunny spot to visit, why not pack up the car and head to a national park where just-for-kids programs abound. Whether it is a day trip, an overnight or a week-long camp out, young explorers will find ample opportunities for adventure in America’s national parks. They can watch bears, deer, and hawks amid sequoias in the Sierras; learn the basic camping skills needed to spend a night outdoors under the stars; or explore centuries-old stone and log dwellings to discover how our ancestors lived – all the while nurturing a love for nature and history that will stay with them always.

To jump start the planning of our family’s national park adventure, the National Park Foundation, the official non-profit partner of the National Park Service, offers Parks for Play, a free, informational download. Discover helpful tips and insider info about park programs and activities perfect for all ages. Download your copy today. It’s free!

For even more inspiration about the fun to be had in national parks, watch and see what Elmo, Murray and the Sesame Street gang discover when they teamed up with the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service to explore the parks. Watch and see how your kids can share the same experiences.

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June 17, 2013

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Sesame Visits Families at Rikers Island

By Graydon Gordian


The 2.7 million children in the United States with an incarcerated parent are in a uniquely difficult situation. They feel a number of complex emotions: sadness, shame, guilty, anger. Yet they often don’t feel they are allowed to talk about their experience, partly because the adults in their life oftentimes don’t know how to talk about the experience either. That’s why Sesame Workshop launched Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, a multimedia, bi-lingual (English/Spanish) outreach initiative with stories featuring Sesame Street’s beloved characters that help children feel reassured, loved and supported.  Read More

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June 12, 2013

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‘They Need to Know They are Loved’: Centerforce’s Carol Burton on Sesame Workshop’s Incarceration Initiative

By Graydon Gordian


The number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80% in the past 20 years. Nearly 2.7 million children have a parent in state or federal prison, yet few resources exist to support young children and families coping with this life-changing circumstance. Children need tools to express emotions, while their caregivers need help maintaining routines and establishing age-appropriate communication around incarceration. That’s why Sesame Workshop has created Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, a new outreach initiative.

This bilingual, multimedia initiative includes material that can help young children with an incarcerated parent find support, comfort and reduced levels of anxiety and sadness, as well as provides parents and care-givers with strategies, tips, and age-appropriate language they can use to help communicate with their children about incarceration.

The Little Children, Big Challenges initiative, which includes efforts to address the loss of a parent, divorce, incarceration and other difficult situations young children face, grew out of Sesame Workshop’s Military Families initiative.

To learn more about why children with incarcerated parents are in need of support, Sesame Workshop sat down with Carol F. Burton, executive director of Centerforce, a non-profit dedicated to supporting individuals and families impacted by incarceration. Ms. Burton also served as an advisor to Sesame Workshop during the development of the Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiativeRead More

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