Community Action News


In Memorium

On August 17th, WCAC unexpectedly lost a dear friend, long time Board Member, and passionate Head Start advocate Steven M. Desmarais.


To honor Steve's tremendous service to WCAC, particularly for our early education and care programs, we are dedicating this month’s newsletter to him and his tireless work to support early education and care programs.  Soon, we will be dedicating the new Parent Center at our Southbridge location in his name and will name our annual early education Resiliency Award to the Steven M. Desmarais Champion for Kids award.


We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and wish to express our heartfelt appreciation for his many, many years of volunteerism and support of WCAC and the vulnerable households we serve. May he rest in peace.

Back to School, Back to Basics

September is here and with its arrival our thoughts turn back to school as we welcomed children to our Head Start classrooms in Southbridge and Webster last week. We are also very excited to share that we are finalizing details and licensing requirements with the intention of opening three Head Start classrooms that will extend our services back into the Route 9 corridor with one classroom in East Brookfield at East Brookfield Elementary School and two classrooms in Leicester at the former middle school. We plan to open next month for 52 children! We know the benefits a quality early education and care program makes not only for a child but for their family as well and we are happy to be able to once again provide our needed services in four towns.


Highlighted within this month's newsletter are two new nutrition programs we look forward to introducing this school year - both of which came about because of increased concern about food security among the families we serve. Escalating costs at the grocery store, at the pump, and nearly everywhere you turn have many households anxious about how to make ends meet. Ensuring access to basic needs such as food is paramount in stabilizing households for ultimate economic mobility and success.


With these families and households in mind, we continue to advocate with our elected state representatives to override vetoes made to the FY24 state budget by Governor Healy. Please join us in raising your voice to urge overrides to the Early Education Rate Reserve and Head Start State Supplemental Grant - both of which invest in our early education workforce, ensuring a living wage while providing an incentive that attracts and retains our workforce. Additionally, we ask for your support in advocating for an override of the elimination of a $7.5m Community Action line item which enables WCAC to fund our team of community navigators who are inundated with requests for support from struggling households throughout our service area. Our community action colleagues throughout the state count on these resources to help individuals and families establish stability in their lives through such initiatives as food pantries, mobile food distribution, emergency shelters and rental assistance. Failure to override these items will make our challenging work even more so. Find your legislator here and call to let them know you support these overrides!


We continue to monitor a possible shutdown of the federal government on October 1st and the impact an extended shutdown will have on our programs and services. We are in communication with our elected officials and remain hopeful that any such interruption will be minimal and brief. Despite great uncertainty, please be assured WCAC stands at the ready to continue to support our community in whatever means necessary as we have since our inception in 1965.

Cooking Matters!

Building upon the support Fundacion MAPFRE has provided to WCAC’s Head Start program for our early education and care nutrition program for the past five years, WCAC will be introducing two additional nutrition-related programs this school year. At a time when concerns about food insecurity have skyrocketed, we are grateful for MAPFRE's additional support to augment lessons about healthy eating while providing our families access to fresh, healthy foods.


Cooking Matters is a curriculum teachers will use to provide children with hands-on lessons about cooking and sampling a variety of food. Cooking Matters works in communities across the country to help parents and caregivers develop their skills when shopping for and cooking healthy foods on a budget. Teachers will present a series of bi-weekly lessons where children will have hands-on opportunities to learn about, cook and sample a variety of nutritious new foods. Each series will culminate with a parent-child lesson with parents visiting classrooms to share in the Cooking Matters lessons alongside their child. The lessons will include educational materials about cooking, meal prep, grocery shopping, food budgeting and nutrition. Participating parents will be given a small bag of groceries at the conclusion of the lesson so they can replicate the lesson at home with their child and reinforce the importance of healthy nutrition.

Additionally, with the start of the new school year, WCAC's Head Start will be piloting a collaboration with the Tri-Community YMCA Family Branch What’s for Dinner program. Through the initiative, families enrolled in the agency's Southbridge Head Start Center will receive a weekly meal kit subsidized through the generosity of Fundacion MAPFRE. The meal kits included pre-portioned protein, carbohydrates, fresh vegetables, spices, and a recipe to make a healthy meal. Families sign up a week in advance and they receive the meal kits from the YMCA on a designated day. WCAC early education and care staff will facilitate registration for the meal kit program and serve as a conduit to the YMCA's program.

Noting that more than half of the families enrolled in the agency's Head Start program participate in the federally supported Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Head Start Director Kathy Dow said, "SNAP affords them critical but modest resources to purchase food for their families. These two new initiatives are an additional means of making sure every child has healthy food and that their parents and caregivers have the support they need beyond the walls of our classrooms."


WCAC’s Head Start program offers a home based program serving expectant mothers and children, infants to age 3 and a center based preschool program for ages 3-5. Centers currently located in Southbridge and Webster, with additional classrooms in East Brookfield and Leicester coming soon. Program openings available for income eligible families residing in Brookfield, Charlton, Douglas, Dudley, E. Brookfield, Leicester Millbury, Oxford, Spencer, Southbridge, Sturbridge, Warren and Webster. Learn More

Helping Families Be Healthy

WCAC's Healthy Families of Southern Worcester County program is one of three in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts selected to participate in a new nutrition pilot in collaboration with Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital. The pilot is related to improving nutrition for Healthy Families Massachusetts (HFM) participants and staff. 


To this end, Children's Trust will be supporting Marie-France Hivert from Harvard MGH through a planning phase, working with Healthy Family's home visitors to develop a healthy lifestyle enhancement, which will include nutrition, cooking, and physical activity within HFM. The pilot will initially focus on HF Staff, ultimately to be shared directly with HF program participants.


The pilot will explore opportunities to learn about healthy eating/physical activity/sleep, what they need to have better access to healthy food (or places to be active), and what type of activities they would engage in to incorporate new/more healthy food (or be more active) in their daily lives.


WCAC Healthy Family's Director Camille Diaz said, "We are pleased to have been selected to participate in this pilot program. Supporting our staff and our families with tools to encourage a healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone of the Healthy Families model."

WCAC’s Healthy Families of Southern Worcester County program serves first time parents expecting or with a child under the age of 1, residing in seventeen communities throughout southern Worcester County: Brimfield, Brookfield, E. Brookfield, W. Brookfield , N. Brookfield, Charlton, Dudley, Holland, Monson, Oxford, Palmer, Southbridge, Sturbridge, Spencer, Webster, Warren, Wales. Services are provided free of charge from pregnancy through a child’s third birthday. Learn More

Fighting for Food Equity

WCAC is proud to be a participant of the Center of Food Equity, a project of the Worcester County Food Bank that includes the City of Worcester Task Force on Food Security, the Worcester Food Policy Council, and the Central Mass SNAP Coalition. Together, dozens of people and organizations are working to transform the food system in Worcester into one that provides equitable food access for all of our neighbors. 


In May, the Center launched its first major project, a Community Food Assessment, which will gather data on the current food landscape in Worcester through a survey that is being administered at various sites around the city, as well as online. The data gathered through the survey will identify local food resources, as well as pinpoint the gaps, barriers, and challenges residents in the city face when trying to feed themselves and their families. When the survey is complete, the data will help inform policy and projects which will best expand access to healthy and culturally appropriate food. You can learn more about the Community Food Assessment here.


The survey is currently available online in six languages, with additional languages forthcoming. Please consider helping by sharing the survey to reach as many people as possible so that the results of the survey are truly reflective of the current state and needs of the food system in Worcester. The Center has specifically cited a need in helping to distribute the survey to people in the Vietnamese and Southeast Asian community and the Haitian Creole community. 

Complete The Survey

Starting October 1st, WCAC will adding a SNAP Coordinator to our team to assist eligible area residents with enrollment in the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). WCAC staff will be available to assist households in applying for SNAP and navigating the often challenging system of securing assistance. Eligibility and benefit amounts are based on a number of factors, including: household size, citizenship/non-citizen status, income, expenses.

SNAP into BabySteps is here to help families get started on their pathway to saving for their children’s future! Massachusetts families enrolled in both SNAP and the BabySteps Savings Plan can receive up to $170 in free deposits for their children’s education, vocational training, or apprenticeship costs. Visit to enroll today.

Help-Wanted-logo image

WCAC has several immediate openings available within our Early Education & Care programs and other opportunities across the agency.

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