Rhode Island childcare centers using federal nutrition subsidy served healthier food

July 14, 2016 by David Orenstein, Brown University
A new study based on a survey of Rhode Island daycare center directors finds that those governed by federal oversight reported serving healthier food. Credit: Brown University

A new Brown University study suggests that in Rhode Island, the nutritional requirements imposed by a federal food subsidy program for daycare centers that serve low-income children have resulted in kids at those centers eating healthier food than kids at centers that do not participate in the program.

The analysis, based on the survey responses of more than 100 directors of centers around the state serving children aged 18 months to 5 years, suggest that if all daycare centers followed nutritional guidelines—such as the ones enforced by U.S. Department of Agriculture's Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)—more kids might receive better nutrition.

"I encourage all childcare facilities to follow the CACFP guidelines voluntarily as a check on the nutritional quality of what is being served," said Patricia Risica, lead author of the study in BMC Nutrition and research assistant professor in the Brown University School of Public Health. "Alternatively, I would encourage the state regulations to include CACFP guidelines for all licensed childcare facilities."

Food findings

The detailed surveys, conducted in 2011, asked center directors questions about the food they serve, opportunities for and attitudes among staff and parents regarding health and nutrition. In all, 107 facility directors, including at 36 centers receiving CACFP subsidies and 71 centers outside the program, answered all the survey's questions.

Centers qualify for the CACFP reimbursements of two meals and one snack that meet if 25 percent or more of children meet measures of low income, SNAP assistance or Head Start enrollment.

Overall, the study found that nutrition could be considerably better in all centers, regardless of program participation, but that CACFP center directors reported significantly higher frequencies of providing healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, beans, 100 percent juice and low-fat milk.

The nutritional differences were evident in the data, even though directors at non-CACFP centers were more likely to say they were capable of identifying healthy foods and had easy access to purchasing them. The difference seems to arise from the program enforcing requirements rather than depending on the abstract nutrition perceptions or knowledge of the staff, Risica said.

"CACFP recipients are required to serve food within very specific meal plan parameters, which are monitored," Risica said. "Also, CACFP providers and sponsors are required to have continuing education regarding nutrition. To us, the likelihood is that the requirements for meal plans and education make the difference."

Regulations or a voluntary commitment to guidelines may counteract the temptation to take an easier road on nutrition, Risica said.

"Less is often cheaper and consumed without complaint," Risica said. "Healthier foods might cost more, not taste as good if not prepared in an appetizing way, and children might need encouragement to eat something that is not part of their usual diet at home. I was not terribly surprised that those not monitored for nutritional quality do not serve a very healthy menu. The same pattern is seen with public—regulated and monitored—versus private schools."

CACFP does not make or enforce any requirements for physical activity, and there was no difference in the survey data in physical activity between centers in or out of the program.

Though the survey data is five years old, it is still relevant, Risica said. Rhode Island has not promulgated new rules for daycare centers since 2007. CACFP regulations have been revised, but many daycare centers remain outside state or federal programs entirely, meaning they remain without clear nutrition guidelines.

In the survey, center directors overwhelmingly said they would welcome standardized nutrition guidelines, though they were not asked specifically about CACFP's rules as that standard.

Risica said she hopes centers will begin to meet particular standards.

"Changing the childcare environment to expose children to healthy, tasty foods and fun, engaging physical activity will not only benefit their health, but also will hopefully instill in children a love of healthy foods and activity that will last into adulthood," she said.

In addition to Risica, the paper's other authors are Sarah Amin, Angela Ankoma and Eliza Lawson.

Explore further: Study finds children eat healthier at daycare centers than at home

Related Stories

Study finds children eat healthier at daycare centers than at home

September 9, 2015
A recent study conducted by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has found that preschool age children are consuming more calories and fewer fruits, vegetables and milk outside of child care centers ...

Passing bowls family-style teaches day-care kids to respond to hunger cues, fights obesity

January 13, 2014
When children and child-care providers sit around a table together at mealtime, passing bowls and serving themselves, children learn to recognize when they are full better than they do when food is pre-plated for them, reports ...

Nutritionist looks at proposed changes to child care meal guidelines

June 5, 2015
The guidelines for meal requirements in child care settings are being revised for the first time since 1968, something a Kansas State University nutritionist says is a victory for both children's nutrition and business owners.

Child-care facilities can do more to promote healthy eating and physical activity among preschoolers

August 26, 2011
Eating and physical activity habits for a lifetime can develop at an early age. As the use of preschool child care increases and the prevalence of childhood obesity is at an all-time high, the opportunity to positively impact ...

Better nutrition policies needed for children

February 4, 2016
Most early childhood education services strive to encourage healthy eating among children, but need stronger and more detailed nutrition policies to support change in everyday staff and parent behaviours.

House Child Nutrition Bill is a major step backwards for kids' health, says American Heart Association

May 19, 2016
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on the "Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016," which is being marked up today by the House Education and Workforce Committee:

Recommended for you

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...

Effect of oral alfacalcidol on clinical outcomes in patients without secondary hyperparathyroidism

December 11, 2018
Treatment with active vitamin D did not decrease cardiovascular events in kidney patients undergoing hemodialysis, according to a research group in Japan. They have reported their research results in the December 11 issue ...

Studies reveal role of red meat in gut bacteria, heart disease development

December 10, 2018
In concurrent studies, Cleveland Clinic researchers have uncovered new mechanisms that demonstrate why and how regularly eating red meat can increase the risk of heart disease, and the role gut bacteria play in that process.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 15, 2016
I always find for "How to Lose 6 Pounds in a Week..?" I was in the same problem, here is what I did actually.

When you have a big event coming up, you may want to try to lose six pounds in a week in order to look your best. While there's no way to actually lose six pounds of fat in just a week, you can lose six pounds if you include water weight. This will make you look slimmer and feel sexier. You won't be able to keep up this type of rapid weight loss long-term, but you can achieve your short-term goal.

Follow These Tips:

Drink lots of water.
Cut processed foods out of your diet.
Avoid salty foods.
Base your meals on vegetables.
Choose fruits for a snack.
Exercise daily. Make a point to exercise every day.
With these daily habits I also applied this guide below & I got very good result. This is the product I've applied – www. bit.ly/NaturalFatBurner

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.