Monday, February 29, 2016

Farm to Child Care in Colorado

The Colorado Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is building on the success of the 20-year-old National Farm to School Program by developing a Colorado Farm to Child Care Program.

The program will help child care centers and homes participating in CACFP have access to more locally grown produce and increase children’s acceptance of vegetables and appreciation of locally grown food through hands-on gardening, cooking, nutrition education and taste testing.

"A balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits sugary beverages helps prevent obesity in children,” said Jennifer Dellaport, manager of the health department’s Early Childhood Obesity Prevention program. “By exposing young children to high quality, locally grown food, we can help them build healthy food habits that last a lifetime.”

The 2014 Colorado Child Health Survey shows 48.9 percent of children aged 1-14 years eat the recommended two daily servings of fruit and just 13 percent consume the recommended three daily servings of vegetables. Skipping vegetables means missing key nutrients such as fiber and potassium.

By the time children start school, many of their food preferences are already established. Early and repeated exposure to new foods, such as vegetables, can help shape children’s taste preferences and increase their willingness to try unfamiliar foods. Because approximately 106,000 Colorado children spend a significant amount of their time in child care centers and homes, the farm to child care program can help ensure children in carereceive high quality food, are exposed to new foods and have an active role in learning where their food comes from.

“While growing a garden with the help of 3-year-olds may not be the easiest thing I have ever done, it is by far one of the most rewarding,” said Kat Paula of the Family Learning Center. “Being able to see that moment when a child realizes they are eating something they helped to grow is phenomenal. I had one child who had declined to eat bell peppers at snack for four years. When we grew them in our garden, he wanted to try them and he LOVES them now. If I could just get one child to eat more vegetables, I would consider our garden a success. I am overwhelmed by the positive response I have seen from the children!”

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