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AHA fosters and supports community efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity the way of life in Wake County.

Summer Harvest: Healthy NC Fare at Child Care Centers

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Child care facilities in Wake County who participate in our funded Farm to Child Care work receive a banner like this to display at the center or family child care home. Marketing is a piece of institutionalizing Farm to Child Care so that it is the norm for child care facilities in Wake County.

Colorful, healthy and tasty zucchini, yellow squash, new potatoes, watermelon and blueberries are just a few of the NC crops coming from the farm to the child care table this month as part of Farm to Child Care (F2CC). Partners Wake County SmartStart and Wake County Cooperative Extension, along with AHA, are in the midst of the second year of a John Rex Endowment grant enabling us to help child care facilities transition to serving NC produce for meals and snacks. We’re working to make this the norm across child care centers and family child care homes in Wake County.

F2CC isn’t a project but rather a system change—a change in the way child care facilities “do business” when it comes to buying produce. Fifteen child care centers now join last year’s facilities in serving NC produce, and our partners have been providing technical assistance and training, from where they can purchase NC grown produce and how to incorporate it into their menus, to training cooks on knife skills to help them efficiently prepare fresh produce, to marketing and social media training so that directors can distinguish their centers and create a niche as a local food provider.

Farmer Robert Jones delivering local zucchini to Kim Saint German, cook for Bright Horizons-Raleigh Corporate Center.

Farmer Robert Jones delivering local zucchini to Kim Saint German, cook for Bright Horizons-Raleigh Corporate Center.

F2CC Project Coordinator Lynn Policastro is also hosting a 3-part training series for family child care home providers; their needs are different from those of larger centers since they have a much smaller number of children to feed each day, but there is a huge opportunity to impact a large number of children by working with these directors. Sixteen family child care home directors have completed 2 of the 3 trainings to date.

Measuring the Impact

In 2015, 1,969 children were served through 22 child care facilities participating in Farm to Child Care, and at the participating centers (not homes), there was an average of 4.1 local food items served each week with a maximum of 6.1 and a minimum of 3.1. This is a big change for many child care facilities.

Knife skills is important training to help child care cooks prepare fresh produce efficiently.

Knife skills is important training to help child care cooks prepare fresh produce efficiently.

Looking at a snapshot of one week in October last year, centers spent $57.23 for the week on NC produce. That equates to .75 per child per week in October last year; if 338 centers in Wake County spent .75/child/week on local foods, that would equate to 1,386 local food items per week and $19,343 in sales to NC farmers.

For F2CC to be sustainable, it has to work well for child care directors AND the farmers and produce suppliers working with them. This is all part of the work AHA and partners are carrying out to begin this transformation in Wake County.

Raleigh-based Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) was recently awarded a two-year Kellogg Foundation grant to advance Farm to Child Care statewide and is hiring a Program Coordinator. The Wake F2CC team will contribute to this work going forward based on local learnings. We look forward to this partnership and appreciate the child care directors, farmers/producers and aggregator/distributors who are working to make Farm to Child Care sustainable in Wake County and beyond!

 

 

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