Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Plate Unknown

When my daughter was born in 2012, Washington was in the middle of a whooping cough epidemic. (It is on the rise again). A staff person in the baby room at the center my son was attending refused to get her booster shot for whooping cough, so I switched child care providers. All the centers that I called said they couldn’t guarantee that their staff had their shots, so I decided on an in-home child care.

I wasn’t happy about uprooting my son; he was three at the time and not fond of change. In the end, of course, it turned out fine. My daughter, now age three, is still in the same daycare. I love her caretaker, and I know she is well cared for. The rooster greeting me in the morning and the lovely garden are incentives as well.

Home-based childcare programs have different regulations than the larger centers. A huge difference between the two (for Nutrition Mom at least) is that centers are required by state law to post their menus; in-home providers are not. As a result, I have no idea what my daughter eats all day. I know she eats a lot, so it’s not enough of a concern to pursue this. If I asked, my provider would give me a run-down, but I don’t want to add to an already long work day (for either of us!).

Chopping Veggies
Our provider follows national guidelines called the Child and Adult Care Food Program, called CACFP in my work world. Unfortunately, the program hasn’t been updated since the 80’s, so its recommendations are very outdated. And really unfortunately, that’s what child care providers have as their gold standard — the state regulation for centers is based on CACFP guidelines, which are undergoing a revision, and the state law may soon go through a revision as well.

Since one of my team’s priorities is healthy food and drinks at childcare, I give this a lot of thought. We recently worked with Public Health — Seattle & King County and the University of Washington to survey child care providers throughout the state. We got a good response, and the results have given us a good baseline and our first glance at what foods, drinks, and physical activity opportunities kids are exposed to in child care.

So, for now, I chat with our provider about food intake now and again, and make sure we offer her healthy foods she likes at home — whole grain pasta with parmesan, whole wheat tortillas, little tomatoes, small amounts of meat, cooked beets, frozen (yes, frozen) green beans, low sodium noodle soup, and any fruit are on the current list of healthy daughter–approved foods. I won’t go into her “unhealthy” approved foods now; more on that in a future post!

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