CACFP Inspire: Candace Horne of Candy Cane Learning Centers
Candy Cane's Learning Centers, under the direction of Candace Horne, are high quality childcare centers where food access and food-based learning are top priorities. Candy Cane's Learning has three locations. Two of these are in the poorest neighborhoods in Adel, Georgia. The organization has been a member of the CACFP for thirteen years. Candy Cane’s Learning Centers has leveraged the CACFP to provide nutritious foods that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of children in the Cook County community.
Food insecurity increased by 360 percent in the rural communities of Cook County because of the pandemic, and families needed emergency food supplies. Candace partnered with Cook County Family Connection, a nonprofit community coalition comprised of 60 partners, to help host drive-through food drops for families, to provide emergency food tables outside of her childcare facilities, and to package and distribute emergency food bags weekly.
She offered resources not only to families in her childcare programs, but also to the surrounding neighborhoods.
Candace was an important leader in the work of Cook County Family Connection, which provided over 200,000 pounds of emergency food to families. She not only assisted the coalition to schedule and facilitate monthly deliveries of fresh produce for all children in her childcare programs, but she went beyond that to incorporate those food deliveries into the learning curriculum for maximum impact. For example, if a truck of oranges was delivered, Candace focused learning around those oranges--the children read books about oranges; they learned about the color orange; they smelled, felt and tasted the orange, would even incorporate measuring and counting. Every food delivery becomes an exciting learning experience for the children in Candace’s care.
Furthermore, Candace led the effort to collect local data and assess needs throughout the pandemic, including issues of food insecurity. Cook County Family Connection conducted a six-month study to examine impacts of the pandemic on local residents, and Candace helped to administer surveys and interviews to gather that data. She is currently working to help pilot a research project among 20 of her lowest-income families to understand which strategies work best in helping families become more food secure.
Candace is a board member of the Chamber of Commerce and Cook County Family Connections.
Cook County Family Connections distributed over 100 produce boxes and health resource kits during a single drive thru event. The boxes include fresh veggies and a resource kit packed with information on physical and mental health, social services, vaccinations, trauma, and local services for families.
Beyond that, Candace serves on the Advisory board at Cook High School Early Childhood Education Program, Advisory Board at Wiregrass Technical College Early Childhood Education Department, Board member of the Baby Hornet Program, regional Birth-to-Eight Leadership Team, and so many others. Candace is passionate about her work, and she educates community members, parents and her staff on literacy, health, and nutrition.
An example of her literacy work is the installation of a neighborhood Tiny Library. Many of the children in her facilities and neighborhoods do not have transportation or access to visit a public library, so Candace secured grant funding to build a Tiny Library beside her building so that children and their families would have access to a small library in their own neighborhood.
Candy Cane’s Learning Center and CACFP farm to table
Candace implements Farm-to-Early Childhood Education programs in the weekly curriculum of her three childcare facilities. Her students receive fresh farm produce at least monthly; they plant and grow community garden plots at their childcare facilities; and regularly host cooking and taste-testing events so children can learn about the importance of healthy foods while connecting those experiences to early learning. She has raised the bar in her community by offering taste tastings, having a chef visit to prepare a meal or snack to reflect the vegetable of the month. Candace even has different members of the community visit to read a book to her students based on health and nutrition.
Candy Cane's Learning Center has inspired other CACFP & non CACFP members be to more involved in getting to know community leaders and local farmers. She uses her social media as a platform to set an example and encourage other providers to try new things.
A regional leader
Candy Cane's Learning Center was a participant of the Georgia Farm to Early Care and Learning collaborative. For her effort, Candace received recognition from Governor Kemp for emphasizing the importance of physical activity, nutrition, and farm to early care and education.
Candace Horne is recognized across her community and region as an exceptional childcare provider and a dedicated community volunteer leader. She works tirelessly to not only provide the highest quality educational experience for low-income and vulnerable children, but she also creates innovative solutions to help resolve the problems of those families. Here at NCA, we are proud to recognize her inspiring work on behalf of the CACFP.