Meal standards will soon change for some child and adult day-care centers. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles…)
More healthful food will become more common in day-care facilities that accept federal funds to provide meals to low-income clients. Recommendations issued Thursday by an Institute of Medicine committee represent the first nutritional changes in 20 years for these programs.
The recommendations now go to the Department of Agriculture, which administers meal standards and monitors compliance for the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The program assists facilities such as family day-care homes, traditional child-care centers, after-school care centers, adult-care facilities and emergency shelters to provide nutritious food to children and adults from low-income families.
So what's on the menu? More fruit and vegetables and less fat, salt and sugar. The report calls for each meal to include one serving of fruit and two of vegetables and for the amount of dark green and orange vegetables served each week to increase. Vegetables cannot be fried. Juice should 100% fruit juice without added sugars and should be not be given to children under a year of age and only once a day to older day-care participants. Half of all grains served should be whole grains. Milk provided to anyone age 2 and older should contain no more than 1% fat.
The recommendations reflect standards that are already in place for the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs and the Women, Infants and Children food program and more closely match the Dietary Guidelines recommended for all Americans.
"The core principles we are putting forth in this report. . . actually do translate back to the Dietary Guidelines meant to guide the food intake of everybody," said Dr. Virginia Stallings, a committee member and director of the Nutrition Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The changes are also prompted by concern over childhood obesity and the recognition that obesity patterns begin in infancy and preschool years.
"Until recently people weren't really focused on obesity prevention in child care," said Geraldine Henchy, a committee member and director of Nutrition Policy and Early Childhood Programs at the Food Research Action Center in Washington, D.C. "Now there is a real interest in that."
The report acknowledged that it won't be easy for centers to implement the changes and that additional funds and strategic advice will be necessary.
Costs will rise substantially in order to improve the healthfulness of meals and snacks. Breakfast, lunch and one snack will increase by 31% for 1-year-olds and 44% for children 2 to 4 years old.
In California, efforts are already underway to improve the nutritional standards for Child and Adult Care Food Program facilities through a pilot project.
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