The Food and Nutrition Service’s Mid-Atlantic Region recently joined forces with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to recognize Programs for Parents, a Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsor in Essex County, NJ, with a regional CACFP Achievement Award for their creative and dedicated efforts to promote nutrition security among children. Their program emphasizes meal quality, nutrition education, and the overall wellness of its childcare providers, children and parents/caregivers.
Programs for Parents uses a variety of communication tools, shared in both English and Spanish, to translate the dietary guidelines into easy-to-use materials for childcare providers and families. Targeted Facebook posts focus on the importance of incorporating fruit and vegetables into food patterns, watching sugar content, and reading nutrition labels. They recently established a CACFP Facebook group where local childcare providers can share healthy recipes and ideas while also receiving nutrition and wellness tips.
Programs for Parents uses their monthly newsletter, “Child Care Matters,” to educate providers, parents and stakeholders on the value of good nutrition in early child development. A recent article discussed studies that have shown kids who eat breakfast have better attention spans and included a list of good morning foods for kids.
Programs for Parents also offers hands-on learning to their communities. A registered dietitian nutritionist facilitated a virtual cooking class for providers last fall. The program sent providers three recipes in advance and provided them with a $25 gift card to offset the cost of ingredients they purchased to use during the class. Participants learned to make tasty turkey burger sliders and healthy snacks for children.
Last year Programs for Parents also launched incentive grants of up to $1000 for CACFP providers, enabling them to purchase kitchen and food prep items such as refrigerators, freezers, crockpots, and utensils to help providers make healthy snacks and meals. Nearly all of the providers participated, and CACFP enrollment increased by 25%.
The Programs for Parents CACFP program, operating since 1984, is a great example of the inroads that early childcare providers can make into better health and nutrition for children and families in need.