Don't all child care providers focus on offering healthy food?
Did you know that 60 percent of children from birth through age 5 participate in some type of weekly, non-parental child care? That means many South Carolina children spend their weekdays — including lunch and several snacks — in the care of a trusted provider.
Nutrition is important no matter a person’s age, but it is especially important for children. Nutrition fuels growth and development of little bodies and brains. And while children often eat several times a day while in child care, studies indicate the meals and snacks offered in child care settings may not be of the highest nutritional quality. Guidelines do exist for nutrition quality, but in many cases, providers are not required to adhere to the recommended guidelines.
It’s easy to see that child care providers are uniquely positioned to contribute to children’s overall health, growth and development through nutrition. That’s why in April 2016 the USDA issued new healthier meal patterns and nutrition standards for child care and related programs. The new meal pattern and nutrition standards apply to many child care providers including Head Start, child care centers, family child care homes, schools, after-school programs and school-based Pre-K.
Young children should receive meals with more whole grains, a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, and less added sugars and solid fats.
This same need was seen by child care experts in South Carolina years ago. In an effort to improve the food children receive while in care, ABC Quality established nutrition standards for child care back in 2012 through their Grow Healthy initiative. These S.C. standards focus on providing children with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while reducing the availability of added sugars and saturated fats.
Feeding children a variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains is critical to their development. Learn more about childhood nutrition from ABC Quality, including how certain vitamins or minerals impact child development and in what foods they can be found.
As a parent, it’s important to know the foods your child consumes while in care, but also the variety of foods your provider offers to your child. Some providers offer full meals and snacks while others provide light snacks to supplement parent-packed lunches. Understand your child care provider’s nutritional philosophy and hold them to it. Ask whether your child care provider participates in Team Nutrition, is rated a B or higher for quality or participates in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. All of these will be good indicators that your child care provider is committed to providing a variety of nutritious and healthy foods.
Learn more about health childhood nutrition at abcquality.org.
ABC Quality is a resource for South Carolina parents. The program is administered by the SC Department of Social Services’ Division of Early Care and Education. Visit the website to learn more about childhood nutrition, brain development and more. Search for a child care provider or learn about the state’s voluntary quality rating system for child care providers.
We’re here to help you answer the many questions, challenges and concerns of raising healthy children.
By ABC Quality Team at 28 Mar 2017, 11:00 AM