Welcome to Incorporating Nutrition into Your Center Policies. This brief module is offered as a complement to early care and education college courses that cover health, safety, and nutrition. It's not meant to be exhaustive, but simply to highlight important best practices and key information, as well as to provide you with additional resources.
As you know, child care program policies communicate expectations, roles, and responsibilities for staff and families. So you may be wondering where to start or what types of things should be included related to nutrition.
This slide shows some important topics that can be helpful to include in your policy. Remember, it helps families and staff to know what's expected, so you'll want to include the meals and foods that you provide, whether you participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, what foods, families are expected to provide, if any, how you'll handle human milk and infant formula, where to find your menus, as well as how you handle any special dietary needs.
You'll also want to include any information that staff will need to help them create a healthy mealtime environment. This would include how infants are fed, meal and snack schedules, and family style meal service if you use that. You can include food safety practices and any foods that are not allowed, such as hard candy or soda. Basically, you want to include the information that will be helpful to staff and families as they think about how and what children will be fed while they're in your childcare program.
Remember that all licensed child care centers and group daycare homes in Connecticut need to follow the meal patterns in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, whether you participate or not. If you do participate in CACFP, you must include information in your policies specific to the program and how families are able to participate. You must also include the following non discrimination statement, which is provided by USDA.
I'm not going to read this statement but please know it must be included on everything that relates to CACFP except menus. So that means it should be included in your parent handbook and staff manual if that's where you're sharing your policy.
This is the second half of the USDA non discrimination statement. You can see that it's a couple of paragraphs, so if you have an educational handout that doesn't have enough space to include everything, you can include the last line shown here. "This institution is an equal opportunity provider." So again, this is required to be posted in your childcare program and on any materials or your website if you participate in CACFP and are receiving reimbursements to help cover the cost of your meals.
Whether you participate in CACFP or not, the best practices required by CACFP make sense to include in your program, and therefore to add to your policy.
You want to communicate which meals and snacks will be served at your program, as well as whether your program or families will be providing the food. Depending on the length of time children are on site, you may be required to serve both meals and snacks or maybe just one. You also want to include the approximate time that meals and snacks are served and stick to those times as best you can.
Best practice is that meals and snacks for toddlers and preschoolers should be served at least two hours apart, but not more than three hours apart. This keeps your schedule in-line with when young children will most likely be hungry and need to eat. For infants, the meal schedule should follow the infant's feeding cues and never the clock. This should also be indicated in your policy. If you provide food for meals or snacks, be sure to include the meal pattern you are following, which is the USDA Nutrition Standards as detailed in CACFP.