A daycare nutrition program is an important component of the overall daycare program. What are parents looking for (or what should they be looking for) when they evaluate your nutrition program, nutrition education programs, and mealtime environments?
To answer these questions we asked Juliet Zuercher, Nutrition Coordinator for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center for eating disorders and substance abuse in the Chicago area .
OwnADaycare: When selecting daycare for children, how important is it for parents to consider its overall nutrition program, its nutrition education program and the mealtime environment?
Juliet Zuercher: It is important for parents to ask these very good questions; however, the most influential messages about nutrition still come from how the primary care giver models behaviors in the home. In daycare, the nutrition program is best when a variety of foods are offered in a relaxed environment where some emphasis is put on proper eating but not so much so that it creates anxiety and shame for children. Good nutrition includes eating with balance, variety and moderation; letting one’s own body regulate what foods are “good” and how much is enough. Nutrition education is done best when a relaxed, neutral approach is taken toward food and eating. Allow the child’s body to develop on schedule as naturally intended. Avoid over-emphasizing rules and restrictions around food and body sizes. Encourage diversity in eating styles, amounts and frequency; celebrate diversity in body sizes, colors and shapes.
OwnADaycare: When selecting a daycare program what should parents look for with respect to meal plans and scheduling?
Juliet Zuercher: Meal plans for children should be colorful and simple. For most children, new foods must be introduced sometimes 10-15 times in order for a child to accept them. Although reasonable variety is essential for meeting nutrient needs, keep the foods repetitive enough so that the child feels safe with the predictability of familiar foods. She will be more likely to eat adequately by mixing new and familiar foods together in the meal plan. Allow plenty of time at meals and snacks. Make sure that the teacher is comfortable with eating, sits down with the children at meals and neither pressures nor restricts the child’s food choices. Allow kid-friendly fare such as candy and sweets to be used occasionally as a prize or reward earned; use other rewards as well such as game time, crayons, special responsibilities to also teach the child manners and cause/effect of choices.
OwnADaycare: What questions should parents ask child care centers about their food safety and sanitation policies? Are there usually local and state regulations for nutrition in daycare?
Juliet Zuercher: Per Debra Johnston, RD (Remuda Ranch Culinary Services Director): I believe that Food Safety for Day Care providers is handled by the County Health Department – Maricopa County Government (in AZ). If the Day Care provider “cooks” or “serves” the food they must be licensed. Licensing comes from the initial application, provision of adequate facilities, and then “regular” inspections (I think 2 times each year). The Day Care provider follows the same “rules” that we do regarding food safety – ultimately the U.S. Public Health Services Food Code through the FDA. States and Counties (and even Cities) can have stricter Food Codes than the U.S. one but not “less strict”. A Day Care facility should have a copy of their “license” posted in a conspicuous place and they should have their inspections available for review.
If I were looking at Day Care providers that handle food I would:
- Look at the overall cleanliness of the food preparation facilities. If the food is “catered” I would look at the caterer’s credentials and if possible their facility.
- Look at the area where the children eat. Are the tables sanitized before the meal? Is the area clean?
- Look at the cleanliness of the employees. Do they wash their hands before handling the food? Are they clean and neat?
- Look at the process for serving the food. Are the cold items held in the refrigerator or on ice? Are the hot foods hot?
If a Day Care provider gets government assistance for providing meals there are strict guidelines about what has to be included in the meal.
No related posts.