The new Wellness Policy was adopted in March 2014 and focuses on teaching children how to make healthy choices about food and physical activity as part of their daily lives.
In addition, staff models the same healthy eating and physical activity.
“The change was made after an examination of our former menu when we discovered that we were not serving our children the healthiest foods,” said Doris Holleman, director of the KCKCC Campus Childcare Center. “For example, we served chicken nuggets, chicken strips and French fries quite often. Although we did not have a whole lot of foods that were not healthy, we did feel that it is important to serve our children a wider variety of healthy options for breakfast, lunch and snack. Our previous menu had been approved through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, but we felt it important to adhere to the standards set forth by the American Heart Association, which were much higher.”
With funding provided by the William G. McGowan Charitable Fun, the American Heart Association and Nemours, launched Healthy Way to Grow in Fall 2013.
In addition to direct, hands-on assistance, the Healthy Way to Grow program offers customized training, resources and tools to support healthy lifestyles within child care environments.
Rhonda Erpelding, the KCKCC Campus Child Care consultant from the American Heart Association as well as one of the trustees from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund visited the center Monday to get an update on the center’s progress with its new Wellness Policy as well as to hear about the successes and future plans.
“The students and staff have adjusted to the changes quite well,” Holleman said. “There was a small adjustment period for the children, however, they have been enjoying the roasted chicken, roasted potatoes and sweet potato fries.”
One of the components of the child care center’s Wellness Policy is physical activity. Preschool children at the center are provided at least 120 minutes of active playtime each day, which includes 60 minutes of teacher- led physical activity and at least 60 minute of active play time.
Toddlers are provided between 60 and 90 minutes of active play time every day, and screen time is limited to no more than 10 minutes a week per child. Children younger than two do not have any screen time.
Holleman said no fried or pre-fried meats, such as chicken nuggets or fish sticks, are served. Instead, meats are prepared by grilling, broiling, poaching or roasting.
The rest of the menu is full of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, some of which are grown in raised planter boxes by the playground. Fresh drinking water is also available throughout the day both outside and in the classrooms.
For parties and celebrations, food includes fruits, vegetables and other healthy snacks. Families are provided a list of approved healthy foods and beverages as well as suggestions for non-food activities.
“The children are excited when they are asked to bring a healthy treat,” Holleman said. “They love to help their parents choose a healthy snack for parties and birthdays. The children and staff are enjoying the increased independence provided by the keeping of water in individual classrooms at a child’s level.”
Holleman said the biggest benefit that she has seen with the changes is the increased consciousness from the staff ensuring that children get their daily dose of active playtime.
She said many of the staff as well as some of the children have also reported weight loss and increased health benefits from the healthier menu and increase activity.
“The staff are coming to work more energized, and the children are gaining better learning, better self-regulation and are resting much better at nap times giving their brains and bodies a chance to grow,” she said. “Another benefit I see is the children becoming more comfortable sharing the information they are learning with their parents and asking for the healthier options when they visit the grocery store. The children are beginning to enjoy the cooking projects a lot better and wanting to try them at home. The last benefit I see is a change in the culture of the college as a whole. The upcoming Staff Health and Wellness Day were inspired by the changes that the center has made since implementing the Wellness Policy.”
For more information on the KCKCC Campus Child Care Center’s Wellness Policy, contact Doris Holleman at 913-288-7615 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.