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Feb. 4: Colorado program introduces healthier menu guidelines and education to child care providers

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Karen Phelan
Prevention Services Division
Colorado program introduces healthier menu guidelines and education
to child care providers
The Child and Adult Care Food Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is introducing healthier menu guidelines and educational opportunities, including cooking classes, to staff at more than 2,200 child care centers and homes across Colorado. The goal of the Colorado healthier meals’ initiative is to give children in child care the most nutritious meals possible and help prevent and reduce childhood obesity.
 “Obesity prevention research continues to underscore the importance of early childhood nutrition,” said Lynne Torpy, Child and Adult Care Food Program manager at the department. “Providing nutritious meals for children in child care can set them up for a healthy start in life.”
According to CDC, empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute about 40 percent of children’s daily calories – affecting the overall quality of their diet and health. More than half of these empty calories come from soda, fruit juice, desserts and whole milk.
Child care providers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program follow the USDA meal standards that include milk, fruits, vegetables, grains and meat. The following guidelines for healthier meals will be implemented in Colorado in summer 2013:
  • 1 percent or fat-free milk for children ages 2 years and older
  • At least one serving of whole grains per day
  • Limit processed and pre-fried meats to once per week
  • Limit servings of fruit juice to twice per week
Research indicates children attending centers that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program consume a more nutritious diet than children in non-program homes and centers; however, the need for improvement continues.
The Colorado Health Foundation currently funds Colorado’s Child and Adult Care Food Program healthier meals’ initiative. 
Kelly Dunkin, vice president of philanthropy for the Colorado Health Foundation, said, “One of the best investments we can make to ensure the health of our children and to help them build healthy habits is to support child care providers in meeting higher nutrition standards for meals and snacks served in childcare settings. By removing barriers and providing education, children in child care can eat more nutritious meals and build a strong foundation of health.”
The Colorado program recently conducted a survey among its child care facilities to understand the opportunities for and challenges to creating healthier meals. Some of the next steps are to offer classes for child care providers on how to prepare nutritious meals, provide educational opportunities about healthy eating to providers and families, and distribute a healthy menu toolkit with child-friendly meals and recipes that meet the healthier meals’ standards.
Obesity is one of Colorado’s 10 Winnable Battles – public health and environmental priorities with large-scale impacts on health and the environment.
About the Child and Adult Care Food Program
The Child and Adult Care Food Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides funding for nutritious meals and snacks to participating child care centers, adult day-care centers, homeless and domestic violence shelters, afterschool meal and snack programs for at-risk students, and family day care homes.
The program reimburses providers across Colorado for serving healthy meals and snacks, based on the income of the children’s families. For current eligibility rates, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/care/ProgramBasics/Payments/Table.pdf
Children whose families are participants of the Food Stamp Program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or who are Head Start participants automatically are eligible to receive free meal benefits while attending a participating child care program. For more information call 303-692-2330.
In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, participants in this program are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice or TDD); English/Spanish 1-866-632-9992. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.