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Eating to Learn

National CACFP Week!

ETL_FINAL_COVER-smIt is National CACFP Week, a time to raise awareness of how the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program works to combat hunger and bring healthy foods to underserved populations. Our work with CACFP has focused on early education settings, but the program also serves adults in care.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is designed to help providers serve nutritious food to children and adults, reimbursing providers for qualified meals and snacks that they serve while offering training, technical assistance, and program oversight. While researching our 2015 “Eating to Learn” report, we discovered that this program is underutilized in Massachusetts. Statewide, approximately 220,000 children are enrolled in early childhood education and out-of-school programs, many of them spending over 8 hours per day in care. This program is a crucial source of nutrition because many children receive the majority of their daily meals and snacks while in care. For our report on CACFP in MA early education and care settings, click here.

The poster below was produced by the National CACFP Sponsors Organization, a national organization for sponsors who administer the USDA CACFP. Please feel free to download and share with those you know!

2016_National_CACFP_Week_AD_-_poster

For more information on National CACFP Week, click here.

“Eating to Learn” Report – Released!

BTWIC-CACFP-ReportWe were so pleased with the turnout at our “Eating to Learn” reception last night. The report examined participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program in early education settings across the state. The event was attended by a wonderful group of supporters, along with Chef Barbara Lynch. She spoke with ease about her time growing up in Boston and her belief in the importance of “real food” for kids. We are honored that she took time out of her busy schedule to spend the evening with us.

Our presentation of findings highlighted key facts from the report, for example, that there are as many as 242 Center-Based early education and care programs in Gateway cities across Massachusetts that do NOT particpate in CACFP – this represents a total of 5,000 (or more) children that are not being served by the program.

For more on the report, read the Boston Globe article, or head straight over to our website
! We hope you find it informative, and we would appreciate your sharing it widely.

CACFP Comment Deadline Extended!

CACFP_RevisedExciting things in the world of the Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) – the deadline to comment on the UDSA’s revised meal pattern proposed rule has been EXTENDED… through May 27! This means you have another month to make your voice heard. If you are having difficulty with the letter format, there are great resources available on http://www.cacfpmealpatterns.com/! From sample letters, to talking points, to fun social media images for sharing, cacfpmealpatterns.com has everything you need to become informed on this important proposed rule.
BTWIC Comment Letter- CACFP Proposed Rule 2015-2

In case that isn’t enough for you, here is a list of blog posts WE have made about CACFP, and don’t forget the great resources on www.btwic.org! For the last three years, we have been examining the topic of early childhood nutrition through our Eating to Learn initiative, and our “About CACFP” page is packed with additional resources (including informational flyers for parents and providers in English and Spanish).

Our CACFP Proposed Rule letter is to the left – you can click on the image to open it as a PDF. We chose to highlight some “wins”(inclusion of more fruits and whole grains in the meals and snacks served as part of this program), as well as mentioning some areas that could be improved (greater technical assistance). Perhaps most importantly, we took the opportunity to urge the USDA to develop measures of accountability for state administrators for CACFP outreach, to help ensure that providers know about the benefits they could obtain through this program.

Please feel free to use our letter as a model, or just sign on via cacfpmealpatterns.com! However you do it, make sure that you have your say. The USDA is required to read and review each and every letter. Your opinion is important, and your voice matters! Add your comments today.

 

 

New Bedford Forum on the CACFP

Flyer, South Coast Forum 4.9.15The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program administered through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts. It provides reimbursement to qualifying providers for healthy meals and snacks served to children in early education and care programs. These nutritious foods are vital to the wellness, growth, and development of children and the reimbursement proves to be especially helpful to early education and care programs that serve children from low-income families. However, many providers are unaware of CACFP or find the program difficult to access.

Research by BTWIC has found that, while all family child care programs in Massachusetts are eligible for the meal reimbursement program, approximately three-quarters are currently enrolled. For centers, where eligibility is determined by multiple factors, the rate of participation is only 25 percent. This represents a great loss to the providers, as well as to the children they serve.

BTWIC has been studying utilization of CACFP since 2012, gathering recommendations from a wide variety of caregivers across the state of Massachusetts. Our next Community Forum will take place in New Bedford on April 9, 2015, from 6:00PM – 8:00PM. Registration is free and open to all interested. Visit btwic.org/forum to sign up. If you have any questions, please contact Kira Taj at 617 425 0002.

What You Might Not Know About CACFP in Massachusetts

Information about CACFP Proper education and proper nutrition go hand in hand; together they provide infants and toddlers with the foundation to succeed in grade school, high school, and beyond. We’ve been examining the administration and utilization of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and other ways providers ensure their charges are eating healthy food while in their care.

So what is the Child and Adult Care Food Program?
CACFP  is a federal program that provides reimbursements to early education and care programs  and home-based family early education providers serving healthy meals that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of young children. Early education and care programs participating in CACFP are required to follow healthy meal patterns established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). In Massachusetts, CACFP is administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In addition to providing a partial reimbursement for the cost of food, CACFP also provides training and technical assistance  to providers in the program.

CACFP also serves emergency shelters that serve children, after-school programs for at-risk youth, and adult day health care centers.

Did you know that:

  • 1 in 6 children in Massachusetts are food insecure?
  • 28% of children in MA public schools are overweight or obese by 1st grade?
  • Over two-thirds of family child care providers are enrolled in CACFP, while only a quarter of early education and care centers are enrolled?
  • CACFP serves 54,000 children in Massachusetts annually?
  • CACFP brings in $50 million in federal funds to MA, more than the school breakfast and summer food program combined?

Find more information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program on our website, and learn about our nutrition initiative Eating to Learn.

 

If you live in the Berkshires, join us on December 2nd for a forum on CACFP at Berkshire Community College. Register now!

 


Sources:
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, MassBudget, Eos Foundation and Umass Center for Social Policy analysis done August 2012, Food Assistance Programs in Massachusetts; FRAC, CACFP  Program: Participation Trends 2012.

 

How Farm to School is Growing to Include Preschool

What is Farm to School?

The “Farm to School” movement attempts to shorten the distance from earth to table, and to address health and nutritional issues as well as the economics of food supply by connecting farmers and local agricultural products with schools. Farmers can benefit from new, regional markets while educational institutions have the potential for reducing their food costs, particularly when they join forces as consumer networks. Farm to school-based curriculums often include farm field trips, school gardens, and cooking lessons.

Several initiatives in Massachusetts focus on farm to preschool. In Worcester, 29 classrooms and approximately 7000 students are participating in the Worcester Kindergarten Initiative during the 2013-14 school year.  Focused on local foods and healthy eating, the project is supported by the Worcester Public Schools and funding from government and non-profit agencies. Ongoing activities include food tastings, classroom visits by local farmers, cooking demonstrations, and field trips. Students take home produce, recipes, and information about nutrition as well as occasional gift certificates to local farmers markets.

Fertile Ground, a third-party research group, is evaluating the effectiveness of the Worcester Kindergarten Initiative. Their report on the 2012-13 school year they found that 88% of the 450 children could distinguish between “anytime” food and “sometimes” food, could construct a balanced meal when presented with healthy and unhealthy options, and knew that strawberries and apples are grown locally. 87% of the preschool teachers were pleased with the program and found it relatively easy to integrate into the curriculum; 100% were pleased with the program’s wholesome snacks. Farm to Preschool will continue to be an important component of the early childhood nutrition discussion.

Let Sesame Street tell you about “anytime” and “sometimes” foods!