2020 REACH Pilot Summary

REACH was piloted in NC between August and October of 2020 and is not currently accepting applications. The goals of the pilot were to:

  • give ECE programs a morale boost given the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, 
  • help technical assistant (TA) professionals stay connected with ECE programs given disruptions in other work, 
  • raise awareness of the important role that ECE programs play in putting young children on a path to a healthy life, and in creating healthy, more equitable communities
  • understand how REACH can best serve TA professional’s, ECE programs, and communities moving forward

The REACH pilot recognized 24 programs in ten NC counties.

Nomination Process

To be eligible for a REACH recognition, facilities were required to have high scores on Go NAPSACC self-assessments in Child Nutrition and/or Farm to ECE. TA’s worked with eligible ECE programs to decide which strengths to focus on in their applications and to gather documentation of these strengths. TA’s then submitted an application and this required documentation for a total of 31 ECE programs. TA’s existing relationships with these programs bolstered their outreach efforts and facilitated this application process.


Technical Assistance professionals (TA’s) from 13 counties across NC nominated 31 ECE programs for recognition in either Child Nutrition or Farm to ECE. Of these nominations, 24 center-based and FCCH-based facilities in ten counties were recognized (77%), 9 in Child Nutrition, and 15 in Farm to ECE.

  • Nineteen (79%) are center-based facilities and five are family child care homes (FCCH’s)
  • Nineteen (79%) participate in the Child and Adult Care Food program
  • Twenty-three (96%) are enrolled in NC’s subsidized childcare program
  • Twenty (83%) had participated in Shape NC and/or the NC Farm to ECE Initiative
  • On average, they had been working on healthy habits related quality improvement for 5.5 years

Recognized programs received a publicity toolkit including a pdf certificate, digital badge, draft social media and family communications messages and link to their profile on the REACH website. Of the 17 recognized ECE programs that responded to a survey at the end of the pilot, the majority used or planned to use the certificate, social media messages, and family letter for outreach about their recognition.

When asked how the REACH recognition would benefit their programs in the future, six of the 17 programs that responded to the final survey mentioned attracting new families or employees, four programs mentioned communicating their values to enrolled families and current staff, and others mentioned the importance of boosting awareness of healthy childcare more generally. Three programs also spoke specifically about the recognition boosting their motivation for continued quality improvement, and this was a benefit that TA’s also noted. In the words of one TA, “The more we surround our communities with healthy and tangible local examples, I believe the more people will take steps in this direction.”

“Being recognized makes you want to do bigger and better things for your program.”

-REACH recognition Pilot ECE Participant

Lessons Learned

All surveyed TA’s (10) strongly agreed or agreed that they would recommend REACH to other TA’s and to ECE programs. This also went for participating ECE programs (17) recommending REACH to their peers. All surveyed TA’s also either strongly agreed or agreed that they would use REACH in their future work with programs and have the time to do so. Feedback from TA’s also point to some needed improvements, namely:

  • change the Child Nutrition requirements to make the recognition more accessible
  • reduce the amount of documentation required for Farm to ECE
  • streamline the instructions and application process

TA’s and ECE programs highlighted the importance of continued marketing of REACH as well as grant funding and training opportunities for ECE programs on healthy habits promotion to encourage future uptake. We hope to improve REACH given our experience with the pilot and continue recognizing high quality ECE programs across NC. Desired next steps include adding additional areas of recognition (Physical Activity, Outdoor Play & Learning, etc) and testing REACH with more ECE programs that are newer to healthy habits related quality improvement.

Ultimately, this pilot underscores the fact that technical assistance professionals and ECE programs across North Carolina are deeply committed to giving young children a healthy start. They participated in this pilot and continue to focus on Child Nutrition and Farm to ECE despite the chaos and stress of the COVID-19, including 13 of our participating programs operating under reduced enrollment. We are grateful to the TA’s and programs that participated, especially our advisory committee members, and commend their critical work every day for the wellbeing of young children and a healthy future for our state. Thanks also to North Carolina’s wonderful community of early childhood health agencies and organizations for their guidance and support of this and many other initiatives that have made North Carolina a leader in ECE health promotion and a healthier place for children to grow up.

REACH is not currently accepting applications. Email reachrecognition@gmail.com with questions or to learn more!

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