The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) has many benefits, not just for your child care business, but for the children in your care and their guardians. Over 4.2 million children receive healthy meals and snacks as part of the CACFP. This vital food program will promote a healthy lifestyle for the children in your care, provide financial benefits, and improve the quality of your child care business for years to come.
Nutritional benefits for your children (and yourself!)
The nutritional benefits alone of participating in the CACFP are enormous. You are promoting a healthy lifestyle for your children and are shaping habits they will carry with them to their family, and eventually, to their own children. When children have access to healthy food and maintain a healthy diet, their energy, focus, and learning ability all increase.
There is so much you can do along with participating in the CACFP to promote a healthy way of eating.
- Lead by example! Enjoy these healthy meals with your children, and tell them how much you love and enjoy the nutritious food. Watching you eat vegetables and fruits will entice them to join in.
- Eat together. Gather your kids at the dining room table and enjoy your meals together. You can even serve meals “family-style” so children learn how to serve appropriate portions for themselves. Family-style also boosts self-confidence and hand-eye coordination.
- Create fun activities for kids during mealtime to encourage healthy eating. Read a book, and add a theme to the meal. Have the kids create their own songs about their food and sing them together. Use positive words to describe the food such as “creamy, sweet, and crunchy”. Invite the them to use their own words to describe the food, which will promote a healthy attitude toward the food they’re eating.
Gain financially for your business
The CACFP directly contributes to your program’s financial stability and will help grow your business. Through the CACFP, child care providers are able to claim CACFP-creditable meals and snacks and are reimbursed a portion of what they spent. Click here for the current CACFP reimbursement rates. Tom Copeland, the leading child care business expert in America, is a huge advocate for the food program and highly encourages participation.
“It’s worth your time to join the Food Program! Most providers spend less than 3 hours per week on Food Program paperwork. If you care for four children you will be earning about $14 or $30 per hour for your time! That’s more than you earn per hour caring for children”, says Tom.
With this extra income, you could purchase items for your business or even go on a much-needed vacation!
Schedule and post weekly menus for parents
Make sure to be transparent with your parents about the healthy foods you’re serving their children. This will show your professionalism and reassure parents that their children are receiving enriching and healthy foods while they’re in child care.
Create and print out your weekly menus to hand out to your parents at the start of the week. Make sure to include a copy of your menu on your Facebook group/page or other social media sites. You can also review the menu during the initial call with a parent inquiring about your program and include it in the handbook.
A fun way to build your menus is to relate them to children’s books that you incorporate during meal time. There are great benefits for reading during mealtime, and there are so many themes and ideas that you can try out for every meal. To read more about the benefits of reading during meals, check out this article from Anne Fishel, author of Home for Dinner. If you need some reading inspiration, gather some ideas from the Top 5 Children’s Books Child Care Providers Love.
Let the children shop and prepare the food
“Kids are more interested in food when they can take part in it”, Attitudemag.com suggests. Letting children shop, prepare, and cook with you is a great way to introduce and teach them about vegetables, fruits, and other healthy items.
While you’re grocery shopping, talk with them about nutrition and how healthy foods will help them grow up strong. Don’t know where to begin? Psychology Today has some great tips on how to have a conversation with children about nutrition. When you cook, let them help with basic tasks. For some ideas, follow this guide of age-appropriate kitchen activities in the kitchen.
“Cooking is a valuable life skill that teaches children about nutrition and food safety, as well as building math, science, literacy and fine motor skills,” says Eatright.org.
Show the parents what their kids are learning by posting photos of them picking out veggies or cooking up a meal on your social media pages. Encourage parents to continue these activities at home.
Bottom line: children are much more willing to chow down on their meal if they helped create it!
These are only some of the great ways the CACFP can add quality to your child care business. To get started on the Child and Adult Care Food Program, you will need a food program sponsor. To find a sponsor in your state, click here. A healthy life awaits – we can’t wait for you to get started!
CACFP Resources and Reading Material: