Healthy Living at Child Care Center: Bright Beginnings
At Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary, director and co-owner Shirley Herndon puts a heavy focus on nutrition for the children in seven preschool classes at the child care center, along with the 5 to 14-year-olds participating in before- and after-school care, and track-out and summer camps.
Bright Beginnings participates in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which requires that child care providers serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack to meet certain criteria. Breakfast must include a milk, a grain and a fruit or vegetable every morning, lunch must have a protein, a grain, a dairy and two veggies or fruits, and the afternoon snack must have two of the components—a fruit and protein or some combination.
This child care facility, however, is going beyond these requirements not necessarily as a policy but as a practice to ensure the kids eating nutritious meals, according to Business Manager Linnie Herndon, Shirley’s son. “For instance, instead of juice and cookies for a snack, we are offering apple slices and crackers to make sure that our children aren’t getting overloaded with sugars and fats,” Herndon said.
Herndon also said Bright Beginnings is making the switch to whole grains, although CAFCP doesn’t require this, and more high fiber foods, as well as cutting down on processed items and serving more chicken salad or tuna salad.
The more the children are exposed to the healthy options, he said, they more comfortable they are about eating them. “In most cases, kids are eating here more than in other places, so the more accustomed we can get them to eating the healthy foods, the better off they will be. Some kids only drink whole fat milk, and we serve 1% low fat milk. The children may be taken aback at first, but get used to it quickly,” Herndon said.
Herndon also said that Bright Beginnings has a policy that teachers eat all their meals with the children. In this way, they are modeling healthy habits and eating the healthy foods prepared by Bright Beginnings’ full-time cook. She also noted that parents can be a big challenge when it comes to children’s birthday celebrations. “It’s a hard sell to parents to not bring in cupcakes for their little ones, but our goal is to completely to go over to more nutritious choices.”
Culinary Arts: Young Chefs
In addition to the focus on healthy choices for meals, Bright Beginnings offers a Culinary Arts program among its track-out camp offerings. Campers meet daily for a week with Chef Sherry, who contracts with Bright Beginnings, and work alongside her to prepare a number of dishes throughout the week. On Fridays, families are invited to a special luncheon where the campers, donning aprons and sometimes chef hats, greet their families and share the meal they have prepared. Chef Sherry emphasizes healthy choices, such as brown rice for the Porcupine Meatballs served last Friday, and whole wheat tortillas for Mexican dishes, and so forth.
“We try very hard to make sure our students, campers and teachers are exposed to foods that offer healthy living and encourage healthy eating as much as possible,” Herndon said.