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Some Childcare Centers Struggling to Meet Nutrition Requirements

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January 24, 2013

Although some cities and states have reported a drop in childhood obesity, they are the exception, as the rate of children overweight continues to be high across the U.S.

Many schools have instituted the USDA's new nutrition requirements for school lunches, but such requirements don't apply to childcare centers, where some of America's youngest children first form eating habits.

The federally funded Child and Adult Care Food Program feeds more than 3 million children every day. Since 1996, participation nationally in the program has increased 59 percent. The rate of participation by childcare centers, however, is much lower.

The program reimburses childcare centers for serving more nutritious food but only if the centers meet certain conditions. Directors of childcare centers must take time out from their demanding workload to attend training sessions; centers must submit records of daily attendance, menus, and even grocery receipts in order to receive the federal funds, which come in the form of a reimbursement. For some centers, the price is too high.

That price is in dollars, though, and the target of the program is to decrease health risks for children down the line, which is a price of a different kind. Some centers have reported sizable savings after switching from unhealthy offerings like fried foods and instant puddings to salads, lean meats, and smoothies. Even though those healthier offerings are higher in price, the reimbursements have helped offset those higher prices.

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