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New Guidelines Improve Nutrition In Child-Care Facilities

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is seeking public input on new guidelines to assist child-care facilities in providing more nutritious foods and a healthier meal-time environment to children in Missouri.

The state health department is asking for public comment on the Missouri Eat Smart Guidelines for Child Care through March 16. The guidelines offer suggestions to enhance the nutrition of meals and establish a healthy setting at child-care facilities in Missouri.

“These guidelines will assist child-care facilities in making improvements in their nutrition programs,” said Pat Kramer, a registered dietitian at the state health department. “With almost 300,000 Missouri children in some type of child care, encouraging child-care facilities to serve healthier meals is extremely important.”

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The health department is working with other state and local organizations, including the University of Missouri Extension and the Missouri Council on Activity and Nutrition, to develop the guidelines.

Thousands of children receive between 50 percent and 75 percent of the food they eat during the time they spend at child-care facilities, Kramer said.

A 2002 Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics survey found nearly three-fourths of children, ages 3 to 6, are in some form of non-parental care and 56 percent are in center-based care.

“A child’s early years are a critical time for physical and mental development. It is also a time when the eating and physical activity habits of a lifetime are formed,” said Kramer. “The foods and the environment in which children eat meals have a big impact on their future nutrition habits.

The Missouri Eat Smart Guidelines for Child Care consist of three levels of suggested nutrition standards: minimum, intermediate and advanced. The minimum level complies with the minimum requirements set for federal child nutrition programs as well as state policy. The standards for each subsequent level encourage child care facilities to adopt healthier nutrition policies.