The CACFP Leadership conference takes place in partnership with a larger anti-hunger policy conference in Washington D.C. put on by the Food Research and Action Center. It is an inspiring conference. An incredible opportunity to see that CACFP advocacy efforts align with those feeding hungry people healthy foods in our United States of America.
Rather than share with you a play by play from the sessions, in which I learned very much, I want to give you a better idea of how the rhetoric of hunger and health in our nation is relevant to the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program is Part of the Public Health Solution
Each year the conversation at this conference revolves around the atrocity of hunger. That it is sad, unfair and unjust - which is true. However, the lunch panel on Sunday emphasized the concept of food as medicine and alternatively the effects of food causing disease. The public health perspective turns the food discussion into a topic of public health not just a poverty issue.
What does this have to do with the food program? Everything! Child Care Providers that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) address the childhood obesity issue, adult obesity (and all of the accompanying complications of obesity) and food insecurity. How you ask?
- Parents do not have to individually qualify for their children to participate in meals fed on the food program. Obesity solution? Children fed meals with nutritional standards. All children eat the same thing like a family. Establishing healthy habits at a young age. Also, control is given to the child care provider for meal service, potentially halting parents' bringing unhealthy options for meals. Food insecurity solution? All children, whether their parents qualify for nutrition assistance or not, receive the exact same meal ENSURING A MEAL FOR EVERY SINGLE CHILD IN ATTENDANCE.
- Nutrition Education. Obesity solution? Providers participating on the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are required to take part in Nutrition Education provided by their CACFP once a year. This is annual training is one element of the continuous nutrition education being provided to and by participants on the food program. The education reaches parents too as providers know that lasting change will only occur if parents are engaged. From the sponsor to the provider, the provider to the child and the child to the parent. CACFP exponentially reaches communities regarding nutrition and health.
- Community Wellness Partner. CACFP Sponsors work with the providers on their program - at their site or home - 3 times a year! The provider/sponsor relationship goes beyond checklists for compliance and education at visits. CACFP monitors are a trusted resource for their program participants which translates into an access point to leave additional wellness information to child care providers.
- 3.5 MILLION children were served as part of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) in 2013. That is a significant number of children being exposed to nutritionally sound meals, healthy habits, and guartenteed meals regardless of their parent's income or nutritional knowledgebase.
- "Daycare Is The New Frontier for Obesity Prevention" headlines a webpage from "Obesity Prevention Source" from the Harvard School of Public Health. It also says:
"Child care providers are in a unique position to educate parents about healthy eating and activity habits, and also to provide a healthy environment for children to eat, play, and grow. They can serve children age-appropriate healthy foods, and limit junk food, sugary drinks, and juice." (Obesity Prevention Source, Harvard School of Public Health)
The CACFP gives child care providers the tools to accomplish this!
Paradoxically, Food Insecurity and Childhood Obesity greatly affect the same group of people as those who are food insecure seek foods that are inexpensive and calorie rich foods to keep them full until the next time they can eat. Oftentimes these are the least healthy food options. "The report says those on the lowest incomes are eating fewer fruit and vegetables, but consuming more salt, sugar, saturated fat and processed foods. Poorer households “prioritise calories over health benefits” when money is tight, preferring to buy “tummy filling” items." The Guardian, US, 2015.
This is a fundamental reason the Child and Adult Care Food Program impacts our nation's public health and enables children access to that basic right - FOOD - regardless of their parents' situation.
Find out who the speakers were at this wonderful conference. Conference Schedule of Events