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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Marshall

A look back at the 32nd Annual CACFP Conference and the Family Child Care Provider Summit

A month ago the CACFP community came together to learn, strategize, build relationships, and take a break from the day-to-day at the Annual CACFP Conference and Family Child Care Nutrition, Health, and Wellness Summit. The time together was reinvigorating and impactful for the team at the CACFP Roundtable and the CACFP community at large.

The conference week began with a distinctive Sunday filled with energy and purposeful human connection focused around nutrition, health, and wellness that solely for family child care providers on CACFP. On Sunday, family child care providers came together in our main ballroom to learn or be reminded about infant feeding, crediting CACFP recipes, brain development and physical activity and advocacy. Most importantly, every session was designed so family child care providers could learn from each other as well as the speakers at the podium. Serving meals and caring for the whole child as a family child care provider is a skill and experience that only a family child care provider can speak to, and this expertise needs to be shared between each other, as the experts. Family child care providers shared why they do what they do, recipes from their kitchens, and how they provide loving meals to the children in their homes. The energy was palpable, contagious, and a perfect way to kick off the Annual CACFP Conference. A BIG thank you to our Summit sponsors who made it so family child care providers could focus on their own health and wellness without having to rush around by covering some travel, meals, and the hotel room. We were also able to make it a bilingual event because of this generous funding. Thank you, Home Grown, Hesing Simons Foundation, First 5 LA, and First 5 Orange County.

On Monday, the conference started with leadership and work culture consultant Galen Emanuel helping us all understand the power of improv in our work and relationships. The principles of improv and the required "yes, and..." approach to brainstorming, thinking, and approaching work resonated throughout the crowd. We laughed and we learned and we moved forward to our break-out sessions and the rest of the conference with a renewed perspective and approach to the rest of our time together.

Our Tuesday keynote focused on the importance of meals and advocacy. This session resonated with the community in several different ways! We learned about the history of Mexican food in Los Angeles from Dr. Sarah Portnoy, heard about the importance of making and eating meals together by watching excerpts of the documentary "Abuelita's Kitchen: Mexican Food Stories" and then had the real pleasure of meeting one of the Abuelitas in the documentary, Merced Sanchez, who not only shared her immigrant story in her language, and the importance of making food and eating meals with her family but ALSO leadership in advocating for street vendors in Los Angeles with the city and state capitol - the wins, losses, and tribulations of the entire process really resonated with audience.

We also heard from CACFP policy leaders and experts across the nation from USDA, CDSS CACFP Branch, and Food Research and Action Center. We closed the conference with a reminder to take care of ourselves - and tips for how to do that! The playroom with a puzzle, rock painting, Jenga, checkers, and coloring was a lovely way to wind down in between sessions or just connect with new people while keeping your hands busy. We ate meals together, had some fun, networked at our reception hosted by My Food Program, relaxed, and worked hard.

Now that we've said good-bye to Long Beach - we're excited to plan for 2024 at Universal Studios Hollywood. We're bringing back the playroom and we'll see what else 2024 has in store for us, save the date now!


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