Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges on Friday announced the makeup of her “Cradle to K Cabinet,” a team of two dozen experts who will look at ways to improve the achievement and lives of children of color by focusing on their early health and education.

The effort — one of her campaign promises last year — will focus on children from the time of pregnancy until 3 years old.

“That very early beginning is an important time for health and brain development,” Hodges said Friday in a sit-down with reporters.

She said the cabinet will look at how to make sure that mothers and babies have the healthiest start possible, have stable living situations and have child care that contributes to their development.

Hodges also cited a recent study by Aaron Sojourner, a University of Minnesota assistant professor who will be part of the cabinet, exploring how early childhood interventions produce positive results later in life.

This focus, she added, “is a place where the city can have a direct impact.”

The group will be chaired by Peggy Flanagan, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Carolyn Smallwood, executive director of Way to Grow.

Other members include leaders of nonprofits and government institutions. Parents also will have input.

Cost of effort uncertain

Sitting alongside Hodges and Smallwood on Friday, Flanagan recalled how overwhelmed she felt when her daughter, Siobhan, was born last year.

“If someone like myself, who has opportunities and access, feels overwhelmed as a new parent, I can only imagine what that’s like for parents who don’t necessarily have the resources that they need,” she said.

The group will start meeting next month and eventually produce recommendations for Hodges, examining programs to continue or expand, finding partnerships, and studying where gaps exist that the city could fill.

Members of the cabinet will consider how to give disadvantaged children better access to nutritious food and help parents expand the vocabulary they use when speaking with them.

Leaders of the effort couldn’t yet say how much it would cost.

“Of course there’s resources that are going to be needed,” said Smallwood, adding that they have to look at using current resources more effectively.