Child Care Centers
Approximately 25% of Wake County’s 80,000 young children are enrolled in regulated child care, where they grow, play and eat most meals and snacks five days a week, year-round.
Starting these young children out with healthy habits is vitally important to fighting overweight and obesity.
Farm to Child Care
With funding from the John Rex Endowment, AHA is working with partners Wake County SmartStart and Wake County Cooperative Extension to create environmental and systems change in child care facilities serving low-income children so that purchasing NC grown fruits and vegetables for meals and snacks is the norm in Wake County.
Together we are working to institutionalize a system that works for both child care director and NC farmers and distributors, and provides a source of healthy, fresh produce for Wake County’s most vulnerable children.
The Farm to Child Care Toolkit helps child care providers and those who provide local produce to them implement this system change.
This 3-year grant (2014-2017) provides technical assistance and training for 75 child care facilities (55 centers and 20 family child care homes) that includes:
- options for purchasing local produce
- menu planning with seasonality in mind
- knife skills training (often a new skill for child care staff not used to serving fresh produce)
- marketing and social media training to help child care providers distinguish themselves as a local food provider
- and more.
Children cleaning fresh produce delivered by their farmer to A Safe Place Child Enrichment Center.
These participants receive a cost-share benefit to help offset the cost of transitioning to fresh produce; they may use the cost share for expenses such as knives, cutting boards, large bowls, refrigerators and other storage.
More than 90 other facilities will receive support but at a less intensive level; they do not receive the cost share benefit.
What does Farm to Child Care look like?
A Safe Place Child Enrichment Center, which participated in the first year of Farm to Child Care and is also a Natural Learning Initiative Wake POD (Preventing Obesity by Design) demonstration site for child care outdoor learning environments, is featured in this 5-minute video. The video provides a good overview of how this change is happening and impacting children.
Gardening in Child Care Settings
Gardening is an excellent sensory and experiential learning opportunity, as well as a way to involve children in learning about healthy foods.
The Natural Learning Initiative has created an excellent series of 8 publications on planting and growing produce, and cooking and tasting from the garden.
These resources are available to help child care providers grow healthy children.