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Research Project: Childhood Obesity Prevention

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Foods served in child care facilities participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Menu match and agreement with the new meal patterns and best practices

Author
item DAVE, JAYNA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item CULLEN, KAREN - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/14/2018
Publication Date: 2/20/2018
Citation: Dave, J.M., Cullen, K.W. 2018. Foods served in child care facilities participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Menu match and agreement with the new meal patterns and best practices. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2018.01.010.

Interpretive Summary: The focus of this article is to gauge the agreement of posted menus with foods served to 3-5 year-old children attending nine early care and education (ECE) centers enrolled in federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the degree to which the facilities met the new meal patterns and best practices. On-site observations and menu coding were conducted to assess the foods served and consumed. Frequencies and percentages of agreement with the posted menu (coded matches, substitutions, additions, and omissions) were calculated for each food component in the CACFP menu guidelines for each meal (breakfast, lunch and snack). Menu total match was generated by summing the menu match and acceptable substitutions. Menus were compared with the new CACFP meal guidelines and best practices. There was a high agreement between the posted menus and foods actually served to children at the meals when the acceptable menu substitutions were considered. Comparing the menus with the new meal guidelines and best practices, the 1 guideline that was fully implemented was serving only unflavored, low-fat, or 1% milk; fruit and vegetable guidelines were partially met; fruit juice was not served often, nor were legumes; the guideline for 1 whole grain–rich serving/d was not met; and regular beef and full-fat cheese products were commonly served. These findings suggest that in general, the ECE centers enrolled in CACFP provided meals that met the CACFP guidelines; however, some menu improvements are needed for the centers to meet the new guidelines and best practices.

Technical Abstract: Our objective was to assess the agreement of posted menus with foods served to 3- to 5-year-old children attending federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)-enrolled facilities, and the degree to which the facilities met the new meal patterns and best practices. On-site observations and menu coding were conducted in nine early care and education centers to measure agreement of posted menus with foods served, and comparison of foods served and consumed with the new CACFP meal guidelines and best practices. Data were compiled for each meal (breakfast, lunch, and snacks). Frequencies and percentages of agreement with the posted menu (coded matches, substitutions, additions, and omissions) were calculated for each food component in the CACFP menu guidelines. Menu total match was created by summing the menu match plus acceptable substitutions. Menus were compared with the new CACFP meal guidelines and best practices. The match between the posted menus and foods actually served to children at breakfast, lunch, and snack was high when the acceptable menu substitutions were considered (approximately 94% to 100% total match). Comparing the menus with the new meal guidelines and best practices, the 1 guideline that was fully implemented was serving only unflavored, low-fat, or 1% milk; fruit and vegetable guidelines were partially met; fruit juice was not served often, nor were legumes; the guideline for 1 whole grain– rich serving/d was not met; and regular beef and full-fat cheese products were commonly served. Early care and education centers enrolled in CACFP provided meals that met the current CACFP guidelines. Some menu improvements are needed for the centers to meet the new guidelines and best practices.