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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Healthy Beginnings help Navajo Nation family meal plan and prepare healthy meals


When an injury forced Crystal Begay’s husband to leave his job, the stay-at-home mom began looking for programs and support that could help get their family of six healthy and back on their feet.

Begay, who has four daughters, with the youngest three all under the age of 5, lives in a rural community in the western part of the Navajo Nation where resources are hard to come by.

“We were struggling,” Begay said. “We had no food, my food stamps were going up and down and I didn’t have any money to provide a Christmas dinner for my family.”

She heard that St. Jude Food Bank in nearby Tuba City could help. The support that her family received convinced Begay to participate in St. Jude’s Healthy Beginnings program.

First Things First funds Healthy Beginnings, which provides age-appropriate foods for children ages birth to 5. The goal is to promote the health and well-being of young children by providing good quality and traditional food to families, said Sister Elizabeth Riddell, food bank executive director.

Families who visit the food bank and have at least one child old enough to eat solid foods receives a Healthy Beginnings bag, Riddell said. “We supply Gerber stage foods and we really do try to encourage people to give their babies developmentally-appropriate food.”

Begay twins Amelia and Aaliyah, look forward to treats like applesauce, crackers and milk that are included.

“Everything in the bag is just their size,” Begay said. “And I’ve learned to start cooking healthier. It makes me want to do better for my kids.”

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