(NNPA)—A perennial favorite science project from preschool on up is the “seed experiment.” That’s when a child plants identical seeds in two pots. She places the first pot inside a dark cupboard and leaves it there, and she puts the second one in a sunny spot and waters it every day. She waits to see what will happen. It’s very easy for even the youngest children to figure out that their seedlings need the basics—sunlight and water—if they are going to survive and thrive.

The same is true for children, and “the basics” during children’s earliest years can have long lasting effects. Arloc Sherman, senior researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the contributors to the new Harvard Education Press book Improving the Odds for America’s Children, put it this way: “I think sometimes we forget to say how important for children’s futures the day-to-day basic assistance of food, clothing, shelter is…We’ve had help from the research community recently, striking studies that help make the case that when you just provide the basics, that’s one key cornerstone for children’s future success. So it’s not just that we’re meeting an important need—which would be enough in itself—but we’re also providing for opening future doors of opportunity.”

He pointed to a 2012 study on the long-term effects of what began as the food stamps program. Researchers went back to the earliest days of the program when it was rolled out county-by-county to identify children who had access to food stamps in early childhood and whose mothers had access during their pregnancies.

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