Nutrition and Health Outcomes
Access to nutritious meals is imperative to children’s health. Poor nutrition is associated with numerous negative health effects, meaning children who live in food insecure households may struggle more with health issues. Under a whole-child approach, we must continually consider children’s health in conversations about child development and early childhood education. CACFP is proven to increase the nutritional quality of meals served at child care settings and contribute to other positive child health outcomes. CACFP supports equitable health outcomes by ensuring children in households with low incomes have access to nutritious foods and positive mealtime experiences.
CACFP-associated childcare centers served nutritious foods more than non-CACFP participants. Childcare centers are in a unique position to provide young children access to nutritional foods. There cannot be a thriving child care environment without food security for the children (Neelon & Briley, 2011).
Directors from CACFP-participating centers have fewer barriers to serving healthy meals, such as cost. Through meal reimbursements, CACFP helps centers raise the quality of their food and provide centers with nutrition training which gives children more access to healthy meals (Zaltz et al., 2020).
CACFP-participating sites provide more nutritious meals than non-CACFP sites, supplying children with more fruits and vegetables as well as less sugary snacks and drinks (Ritche et al., 2012).
This article shows the importance of food security and programs aimed to assist with food insecurity. Parental care and involvement is affected by economic circumstances and the increase in food insecurity in households with children has an immense impact on the child (Gundersen & Ziliak, 2015).
Neelon, S. E., & Briley, M. E. (2011). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Benchmarks for Nutrition in Child Care. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(4), 607-615.
Zaltz, D. A., Hecht, A. A., Pate, R. R., Neelon, B., O’Neill, J. R., & Benjamin-Neelon, S. E. (2020). Participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program is associated with fewer barriers to serving healthier foods in early care and education. BMC Public Health, 20, 1-9.
Ritchie, L. D., Boyle, M., Chandran, K., Spector, P., Whaley, S. E., James, P., ... & Crawford, P. (2012). Participation in the child and adult care food program is associated with more nutritious foods and beverages in child care. Childhood Obesity (Formerly Obesity and Weight Management), 8(3), 224-229.
Gundersen, C., & Ziliak, J. P. (2015). Food Insecurity And Health Outcomes. Health affairs (Project Hope), 34(11), 1830–1839. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0645
CACFP has been shown to reduce the prevalence of overweight and underweight children at participating centers. This is most likely due to the increased dietary quality of meals served at CACFP-participating centers. CACFP may also indirectly help children develop healthier eating habits (Korenman, 2013).
Children that receive CACFP meals are shown to be ill for less days than children at non-CACFP centers, indicating that access to healthy meals may play a role in immune response. Children at CACFP centers are also fed higher amounts of Vitamin A, riboflavin, and calcium than children who eat food brought from home (Bruening et al., 1999).
CACFP boosts children’s healthy eating habits by providing a greater number of supportive nutrition practices at CACFP-participating centers as compared to non-participating centers. A supportive nutrition environment promotes a healthy weight in children, contributing to better physical health (Liu et al., 2016).
Korenman, S., Abner, K. S., Kaestner, R., & Gordon, R. A. (2013). The Child and Adult Care Food Program and the nutrition of preschoolers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2), 325-336.
Bruening, K. S., Gilbride, J. A., Passannante, M. R., & McCLOWRY, S. A. N. D. R. A. (1999). Dietary intake and health outcomes among young children attending 2 urban day-care centers. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(12), 1529-1535.
Liu, S. T., Graffagino, C. L., Leser, K. A., Trombetta, A. L., & Pirie, P. L. (2016). Obesity prevention practices and policies in child care settings enrolled and not enrolled in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Maternal and Child Health j=Journal, 20(9), 1933-1939.