The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a rule to make child and adult day care facilities healthier, and they want to hear from you.
In order to more closely align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the USDA has proposed a rule outlining new science-based nutrition standards for meals provided through their Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). These are the first significant changes to the CACFP since 1968.
The CACFP provides meals to children and adults in day care facilities, and also includes children living in emergency shelters or participating in after-school programs. Across the country, the program is used by more than 3 million children and about 120,000 adults each day.
There are several changes proposed by the rule, which include requiring day care facilities to offer more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, reduce the amount of sugar and fat they serve, and in some cases alter their cooking methods.
For instance, if the proposed rule takes effect, grain-based desserts will no longer count towards the grains requirement. Facilities will no longer be allowed to fry foods onsite (though foods that are flash fried or pre-fried by their manufacturer will still be allowed). And, if accepted, the rule will require child care facilities to make drinking water available to children upon request (which aligns with guidelines from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010). In addition, the USDA is also considering prohibiting facilities from serving flavored milk to children between 2 and 4 years of age, and limiting the amount of sugar in flavored milk served to older children and adults.
The proposed rules also suggest the addition of a new age group for children ages 13 to 18. Currently, there are no specific guidelines for children over the age of 12, though the proposed rule mentions that providers are directed to use the guidelines for the 6 through 12 age group.
For the youngest children, the rule also proposes disallowing juice for all infants and requiring a fruit or vegetable in the infant snack pattern for infants between 6 and 11 months. The proposed rule also covers encouragement and support for breastfeeding, including incentives and requiring day care facilities to provide a clean, quiet space where mothers can do so.
“With over one in five children under the age of five being overweight or obese, the proposed improvements to the CACFP meal patterns will help safeguard the health of children early in their lives,” Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon said. “Providing children access to nutritious food early in life helps instill healthy habits that can serve as a foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices.”
To submit your comments to the USDA about the proposed rule, click here. Comments will be accepted until April 15, 2015.