ABC's and 123's:

A Blog by Action for Children

Food For Thought: Advocating for Child Nutrition


Most of us can remember being told to eat our vegetables as a child, but never really understanding why we had to eat foods we didn’t enjoy. While we likely grew out of this mindset and eat our vegetables more willingly now since we know the nutritional value, it is important to understand the impact that a healthy diet really does have, especially on developing children.  

The nutritional value of certain foods is essential not only for the physical development of a child, but also can positively impact things like energy levels and brain development. Vitamin D is crucial for strong bones and a healthy immune system, yet about 15% of young children are not getting the amount of vitamin D they need. Vitamin B12 is important for proper brain function and a healthy nervous system. Luckily, B12 is found in many nutritious foods, such as meats, eggs, milk and more, further proving the importance of a beneficial diet.  

While supplements like these are essential to child development, not every child receives the nutrition they need for a healthy diet. According to the CDC, 12.7% of children ages 2-5 years old are classified as obese. A major cause is added sugars and fats in quick meals and tasty, but unhealthy snacks that can be conveniently grabbed at the grocery store. Foods like ice cream and pizza make up about 40% of children aged 2-9’s calorie intake, leading to these increased rates of childhood obesity.  

Providing children with a healthy diet is no easy task. Since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the price of groceries has gone up by 25%. With around 45 million people in the United States living in households struggling to feed everyone, healthy foods like eggs, dairy products, and fresh produce have become unaffordable for a lot of families.  

These disheartening statistics beg the question of how to help children get the healthy meals they need, and more specifically, how child care providers can get the children in their centers and homes healthy foods when they are already struggling to afford any groceries at all.  

For child care professionals, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) can be a lifeline. This program, appropriated by the federal government, reimburses child care providers for part of the money they spend on healthy snacks and meals for the children they serve. It aims to make nutritional food more accessible so that all children, regardless of their socioeconomic status, can eat healthy meals.

CACFP is a wonderful program, and Action for Children is proud to be a sponsor that helps provide over 400,000 meals and snacks annually to children in central Ohio. Our role is to provide training and technical assistance coaching on nutrition and healthy meal and snack preparation, and to provide the structure and support for meal and snack reimbursement to busy home-based child care providers. Last year, Action for Children helped provide 413,773 meals and snacks annually in partnership with nearly 130 child care programs. 

As part of a broader advocacy effort, there are currently three bills in Congress that aim to enhance the program by making it more accessible and equitable. The bills address a number of issues that exist within the current CACFP legislation, like low reimbursement rates or the inequity of CACFP for family child care providers.

Source: CACFP Federal Advocacy Toolkit 2024

This National CACFP Week, we encourage you to educate yourself on these bills and the Child and Adult Care Food Program as a whole. After 14 years – nearly an entire childhood – it’s time to update CACFP. Children need access to healthy foods, and providers need help buying them. To help make these changes possible, we encourage you to contact your Senators and Representatives to let them know how their support can improve CACFP! This will help keep providers afloat in the midst of higher prices at the grocery store and assure more nutritious meals and snacks for children.  

Author: Shea McHugh, Advocacy Associate at Action for Children 

Action for Children is the local child care resource and referral agency for central Ohio, and is committed to assuring quality early learning experiences for all children. Our services focus on transforming the lives of children by supporting the everyday heroes who most influence our children’s early growth; care givers, educators, parents, and guardians. Learn More. 
Action for Children’s CACFP services for Family Child Care professionals are funded by the Ohio Department of Education and Action for Children’s generous donors. 

Support children’s nutrition by making a donation today. 

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