The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a food label to tell consumers that the producer of the food meets certain standards. Some multi-ingredient products with USDA Organic labels specify which ingredients have been certified organic according to the USDA standards. The standard for use of the USDA Organic label requires that the producer not use synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering. To enforce the standards, the USDA inspects the production of foods that use the label.
Food labeled USDA Organic may or may not be healthful. There is no evidence that foods are necessarily less healthful if grown with synthetic fertilizers or properly aged sewage sludge. Irradiation of food kills germs. No radiation remains in the foods. Foods produced by genetic engineering may grow better and produce quality product sooner than if the producer waited to select plants from natural mutations. How a food is grown and packaged is not the only way to decide whether the food is healthful. The time between picking and selling foods can affect the quality of any food. Contamination or improper storage of any food may occur on the way from harvest to the seller.
Seize this great opportunity to improve nutrition for children in your care. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition recently released 30 award-winning recipes. They were picked from those submitted to the nationalRecipes for Healthy Kids Competition. All recipes are child-tested and child-approved, using only healthy ingredients. They feature Child Care and Adult Food Program (CACFP) foods. All of the recipes are low in total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Use them with the Crediting Handbook to easily document for CACFP.
Children who eat more salty foods also drink more sweetened beverages. Children who drink more than one sugar-containing beverage per day are 26% more likely to be overweight or obese. These findings are from a study that enrolled over 4,200 Australian children. The study findings are in the January 2013 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Adults know that electronic gadgets with screens entertain young children. Handing a cell phone to a child in a grocery store can make shopping easier. However, adults should focus learning with language rich, socially interactive opportunities for the child to learn about what is in the store.
Screen experiences from TV, smartphones, computers and tablets do not promote personality development. Real world social interactions are necessary. Screen devices substitute viewing images for exploration of the environment. While children can learn something from what they see and hear on screen devices, they learn more easily from interactions with people and objects they can see, touch and manipulate. The bottom line is that screen time for young children should be limited to provide more opportunity for play and learning in the real world. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children less than 2 years of age should have NO screen time.*
Zero-to-Three published guidelines for use of screen devices in 2014.** The guidelines reviewed the research findings, the implications and limits to place on use of screen devices. For example, Zero-to-Three reported that, on average, children less than 3 years old are exposed to more than 5 hours of background TV. This exposure has a negative effect on the children’s development of language and other brain functions. It reduces the quality and quantity of play that is vital to learning.
In a June 2011 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended obesity control measures for children in 5 areas:
1. Growth Monitoring
2. Physical Activity
3. Healthy Eating
4. Limiting Screen Time and Marketing Exposure for Children
5. Sufficient Sleep
Stay Safe in Hot Weather
Extreme heat can make children sick in many ways, including dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
It is possible to safely participate in outdoor activities during the summer heat. To help protect kids from heat illness::
Weather monitoring resources:
Staff can use the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Child Care Weather Watch resource to help understand words used in weather forecast. This resource, along with local forecasts, can help staff monitor the temperature, humidity, and air quality. To stay up to date on current conditions: https://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/Files/HCCI/weatherwatch.pdf
Check the Air Quality Index at http://airnow.gov and subscribe to EnviroFlash. This service from the US Environmental Protection Agency and state/local environmental agencies provides daily emails with information about local air quality. Poor air quality can negatively affect children with asthma and other special health care needs.
Check the forecast for the UV Index at https://www.epa.gov/enviro/uv-index-overview to limit exposure to the sun on days when the Index is high.
Sign up to receive hourly weather forecasts from the National Weather Service on a computer or mobile phone. The National Weather Service (NWS) provides up-to-date weather information on all advisories and warnings. It also provides safety tips for caregivers/teachers to use as a tool in determining when weather conditions are comfortable for outdoor play. www.nws.noaa.gov/om/heat/index.shtml
Encourage children to drink water regularly and have it readily available—even before they ask for it.
Infants: On hot days, infants receiving breast milk in a bottle can be given additional breast milk in a bottle, but they should not be given water—especially in the first six months of life. Infants receiving formula can be given additional formula in a bottle.
Toddlers and preschool children: Provide regularly scheduled water breaks to encourage all children to drink during active play, even if they don’t feel thirsty. Fluoridated water (bottled or from the faucet) can reduce the risk of early childhood caries and is the best drink choice for young children in between meals.
CFOC Standards: https://nrckids.org/CFOC/Database/18.104.22.168
National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/article/national-center-health-behavioral-health-safety-nchbhs
Posted 8/10/2021 Updated 5/31/2022
Early educators have a vital role in the lives of children. What teachers/caregivers do can directly impact each child’s health and wellbeing. Teachers need the knowledge, skills and tools to meet this awesome responsibility! ECELS recently revised three self-learning modules so they are now updated and easy-to-use in online or print formats:
Each module meets STAR Level 2 Performance Standards for Health and Safety and provides 2 hours of professional development credit. See the brief overview of each module below, click on the active link above or go to the ECELS website at www.ecels-healthychildcarepa.org Select the Professional Development/Training tab at the top of the page, then Self-Learning Modules. Find the one you want to use in the alphabetical listing of the more than 30 Self-Learning Modules that ECELS offers.
The approaches you use are likely to differ for toddlers, preschoolers and school age children. You may have a routine transition or a collection of different approaches you use.
Team Nutrition is an initiative of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to support the Child Nutrition Programs through training and technical assistance for foodservice, nutrition education for children and their caregivers, and school and community support for healthy eating and physical activity. The Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program on this website has excellent tip sheets with clear and well-illustrated ideas to use every day and on special occasions too. The two Appendices were updated in January 2013 and are excellent, brief guides for preventing choking and caring for children with food allergies. 2/18/2013
This government agency, USDA FNS manages many key nutrition assistance programs that support all Americans as well as special groups. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is the largest source of subsidy to child care operations by paying for food served to eligible children. From the home page, select the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and then centers or family child care homes. Use this portal for information about the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program and other USDA food support programs also. 12/2012
The ChooseMyPlate website has reliable nutrition advice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can sign up for regular email information at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov. The December 10, 2014 ChooseMyPlate email was about whole grains. The suggestions are good for families and for early educators too.