Fresh Food in the Preschool Classroom - Neighborhood House Meal Service Shares Their Success

Imagine your child or the children in your care sitting down for lunch.  All of the kids are gathered around the table and begin tasting, talkingabout and enjoying their Red Chile Braised Beef, Coriander Scented Brown Rice, Romaine Salad with Cilantro Ranch Dressing, a Pear and Milk for lunch. 

First of all, YES, children do like food that many of us think are reserved for a more mature pallet.  Second-of-all, YES, it tastes good.  It is fresh food, all of it prepared and cooked the same day at the Neighborhood House Association kitchen.  And third-of-all, it is a meal that meets and actually goes beyond the Child Care Food Program (CCFP) meal pattern requirements. 

Kristine Smith, RD from the Neighborhood House Association was a general session speaker at the Child Care Food Program Roundtable Conference.  Kristine shared with us the value of making food from scratch to serve to children in child care settings. 

We saw some side by side meal comparisons of menus that meet food program requirements vs. meals that meet requirements but are healthier and more creative.  Just seeing these comparisons made an impact giving us a real sense of what is possible if we think creatively and make plans to do it.  Here is an example of the side-by-side.  

Neighborhood House Menu Comparison

Neighborhood House Menu Comparison

I was immediately intrigued by Kristine’s message and what the Neighborhood House Association is accomplishing.  There is a big difference between Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets and Vegetarian Black Bean Chile Verde, don't you think?!  Not only is it more appealing and healthier but the children are being regularly introduced to diverse foods at a key age.  They serve fresh meals to over 2,000 preschool children daily.  They have partnered with the Farm to Preschool program and work with local eateries to make foods that meet their high nutritional standards.  Creative thinking, planning and commitment along with solid leadership has created an exemplary meal service program.

The Neighborhood House “ is leading the way nationally in bringing made-from-scratch, nutritious, whole and natural food to preschoolers and helping to dispel the myth that kids will not eat “healthy” food” (The Neighborhood House, 2012). 

The Neighborhood House was also recognized by the First Lady’s Let’s Move Child Care movement for exceptional efforts in preventing childhood obesity.  You can find the press release on the Neighborhood House Association’s website or on the Let’s Move blog

Is there a way we can use The Neighborhood House as an example of the success of using creative menus in the preschool classroom?  How about as a model for using Farm to Preschool or asking local bakeries and other eateries to create the types of food that are high in nutritional value for child care providers to use?  What do you think?  Don't be shy, let's hear some ideas!

Works Cited

Let's Move. (2012, June 13). Let's Move! Child Care Recognizes Exceptional Efforts to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from Let'

The Neighborhood House. (2012). Nutrition Services - The Neighborhood House. Retrieved 10 24, 2012, from The Neighborhood House:

Picture taken at the Child Care Food Program Roundtable Conference.  Neighborhood House Association menu comparison noted above.

Picture taken at the Child Care Food Program Roundtable Conference.  Neighborhood House Association menu comparison noted above.


Samantha Marshall, M.A.

Samantha is, just like you, excited to make a difference in our community and our world. With a Master of Arts degree in English Literature, you might ask how she found herself building and writing for a website focused on child care. From 1995 through 2001, Samantha started her career working for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsors which introduced her to the importance of non-profits, community and quality child care. Her experience with Sponsors, State Officials, and Family Child Care Providers left a great and lasting impression. Later in her career and her most recent position at SAGE Publications, an academic publisher, was as a product manager for a new online resource! During this time many of Samantha's passions collided. A love for the written word, children and the proliferation of knowledge as well as a fascination with the resources the internet gives us, building a community for child care on is the perfect way to make the difference she wanted to. Needless to say, she is very excited to be an active part of creating and building