Love Letter to Coalitions

This is a love letter to the First Food field, and especially to breastfeeding coalitions and those of you doing community-based lactation support. Although Valentine's Day has passed, I am holding the holiday's spirit in my heart. So, I am writing to let you know that you are loved and appreciated.

This pandemic has been long and relentless. I hope you, your families, and those you hold dear are well. The blurring of lines between home and work and the monotony of social distancing and quarantining from loved ones is heavy. Nearly 500,000 lives have been lost. Every community has been impacted, yet the outsized burden of disease and death in Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities starkly illustrates our society's underlying inequities.

In the face of it all, babies are still being born. And you are still doing the hard work to ensure their right to human milk feeding is promoted, protected, and supported. Early in the pandemic, you fought to secure personal protective equipment so that you could do home visits to those in the most urgent need of lactation care. You set up baby weighing stations at the end of your driveways to collect pre and post-feed weights to help families in a socially distanced way. You submitted stories that gave voice to birthing families impacted by early guidance that led to dyad separations in birthing facilities. Your organizations joined the COVID-19 Infant & Young Child Feeding Constellation in an unprecedented way, making it the largest collaborative group in USBC history. Although states may not have included lactation support providers in their vaccine roll-out plans, many of you have successfully advocated for inclusion. Working through this pandemic to care for communities has been a heavy lift, but you have been doing it. Thank you! As you care for so many others, please take care of yourselves.

The USBC team is striving for self-care as we settle into 2021. Still, we are up to big stuff. If you are not already a USBC member, please consider this a special invitation to join us for the upcoming Membership Meeting on Thursday, February 25, from 12-2:30 p.m. ET

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At the meeting, you will hear from our federal partners. You will also listen in on an Executive Team fishbowl conversation on current USBC initiatives. Space will be provided for you to ask questions of the staff team. I want you to be a part of this discussion. Organizations are invited to join this meeting as special guests: register to attend.

As ever, USBC is maintaining our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we plan to do a series of interviews and surveys with our members and coalitions to learn how DEI is operationalized within your organization. We want to collect five data points (one 1-hour interview and four 20-minute surveys) per organization. In thanks for participating, USBC will provide your organization with one complimentary registration to the 2021 National Breastfeeding Conference and Convening (NBCC). This complimentary registration is in addition to the discounted Coalition Sponsored Attendee registrations. Please stay tuned for information about this.

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I am also thrilled to share that USBC is creating a compendium of Equity Champions. This project is also funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation. If you or anyone you know has experience supporting others to operationalize equity, please complete this form. This new resource will make it easier for those in our network to find the support they need to move forward in their equity journey.

I am excited about our newly defined plans to increase coalition engagement, including state, territorial, local, tribal, and cultural coalitions. Through a fresh audit of past surveys and the listserv, we identified some pressing coalition needs. In the coming weeks, we want to talk to you to see if we got it right and determine other necessary supports. We are engaging with awardees to contribute to the planning and implementation of several technical assistance and networking sessions. I hope you join us!

OK, I said a lot, but there are three big takeaways from this love letter.

  1. You are invited to be a special guest at the USBC Membership Meeting on Thursday, February 25, from 12-2:30 p.m. ET. Capacity is limited; please register here.
  2. Your organization can get a complimentary registration to NBCC by full participation in the organizational DEI assessment. Please stay tuned.
  3. You can be in our compendium of Equity Champions by sharing how you support other organizations in advancing their equity work. Please get started by completing this form.

Again, thank you for the work you are doing to sustain and support families and communities across the nation. You are seen and appreciated.

Stay safe and healthy,

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