Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Daycare issues with food and my problem with the USDA food programs

The Issue:

Early in the month the Assistant Director of the daycare we were using in Hot Springs, AR (contact me if you want to know where) came up to me when I picked Genevieve up.  She wanted to talk to me about Genevieve's transfer into the Toddler classroom on August 17th and that when she moved classrooms we would no longer be allowed to provide her meals.  Until this point we brought our own snacks and baby food because I did not like what they served, and this was fine with the daycare.  I told the Assistant Director that I did not want Genevieve eating the salt, sugar, and processed meat that was provided as part of their menu.  I was told that I didnt have a choice, but that I could choose to have her served a vegetarian meal instead of the one with meat.  I thanked her for the option and that would be my preference, but that I didnt want her eating the food and that I would look into the program rules.

The next day when my husband picked her up he called me.  He said that they had sent all of Genevieve's food home and she had a note in her cubby that we were no longer allowed to bring our own food and that any food brought would be thrown away.  Additionally, he was told that she was fed the school meal that day.

I was FURIOUS!  I was told I had a week to resolve this issue and then they gave her the food the next day!  I was waiting to hear back from the DHS Special Nutrition office (who by the way still hasnt called me back 3 weeks later), so that I could speak to the daycare Director with informed information.  I never had the chance to speak with her!  To make matters even worse, when I called to complain, the Director told me that Michael (my husband) had given permission for her to eat the school meal that morning when he dropped her off.  When I asked him about it, he said that no one even spoke to him when he dropped her off, so how did he give permission?!

  1. I was hardly given any notice about the meal requirement and the Director never took the time to meet with me about it. 
  2. I was lied to about when the change would take place.
  3. The daycare had no nutrition program paperwork on file for Genevieve, nor any documentation about possible allergies.
  4. I was lied to (maybe the Director was too) about my husband giving permission for her to eat their food
  5. The Food Program allows for terribly unhealthy foods!

Daycare Menu:

*Each daycare that participates in the USDA food program, chooses how many of the approved meals they will offer.  In the instance discussed here the required participation is 1 meal and 2 snacks (AM snack, Lunch, and PM snack).

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP):

Basically this is a program that reimburses daycare centers for providing meals to the enrolled children.  The goal of the program is admirable: reduce childcare costs and ensure that children receive healthy food.  This is especially important for children who live in poverty and may not eat well or at all when at home.  

Here is their website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cacfp/child-day-care-centers

My Issues with the CACFP:

  • The same guidelines seem to apply across the board.  I dont understand how it makes sense to apply the same nutrition standards to 1 year olds as they do to school age children.  And actually, the daycare we were at, started feeding the program's snacks (but not the lunch) at 6 months old!  
  • These foods are highly processed and full of sugar and salt, which the American Academy of Pediatrics, The National Institute of Health, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics say should be avoided, especially in infants and toddlers.
  • While the USDA does not require that all daycare attendees participate in the program, it does allow for the State or the local institutions to impose additional restrictions, which can mean food isnt allowed from home.
  • The USDA has no dietary guidelines established for infants and toddlers, so the program that are enforcing is created on a fallacy. 
I understand this program is designed to lessen the food gap caused by poverty, but if I can afford to feed my child whole unprocessed foods, why shouldnt I be allowed to?  It offends me that as a parent I am not allowed to provide for my child as I think is important.  My daughter spends more time in daycare than at home, which is hard enough, but furthermore, poor nutrition is being reinforced at daycare which hinders my ability to teach and promote positive nutrition at home. 

Nutrition for Infants and Toddlers

The USDA currently has no dietary guidelines established for infants, toddlers, or pregnant women.  They are currently developing these guidelines,but the will not be released until 2020.  The My Plate program (a reincarnation of the previous food pyramid) recommendations do not start until age 2. 

More Information on the USDA dietary guidelines for Infants and Toddlers (or lack there of ) http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/birthto24months

Informational Links on Toddler Nutrition from the National Institute of Health

Diet Recommendations from Kidshealth.org (recommended by the NIH)

Sodium Guidelines from NIH

Feeding Patterns for ages 6 months to 2 years by the NIH (also notes that salt and sugar should be avoided)

Sodium in Canned Foods

My Thoughts:

I may not make the best nutritional choices for myself, but I want my daughter to have a healthy foundation to her nutritional outlook and I want her to enjoy healthy foods.  I do not want her addicted to sugar and salt and I know that the earlier and more frequently those are introduced, the more desensitized we get to them. It is appalling to me that the USDA can enforce nutrition guidelines when they themselves admit that they do not have established guidelines for infants and toddlers.  Not to mention the fact that the food programs that they promote allow for the lowest quality food possible.  The sodium and sugar content in these foods are extraordinarily high.  Also, it seems odd to me that the same foods considered appropriate for adults are also considered appropriate for a toddler.  Not to mention the fact, that the rules governing these programs make it hard for me to ensure that my daughter is eating nutritious food. 

Its my job as a parent to make good decisions for my child and these approved meal plans, that blatantly go against research and recommendations by the AAP and the NIH, are far from a good decision. 

My Choices:

To the best of my ability, Genevieve will eat whole unprocessed foods, organic, non- genetically modified and hormone free when possible, with no added sugar or salt.  I will do my best to make sure she develops food habits in which salty and sweet snacks are not the norm.  I know that as she gets older she will be exposed to much more than I can control, but for now, I can do my best to help her develop healthy food preferences and create a solid healthy foundation for her health and dietary future.

Daycare Resolution:

We have since changed daycare centers.  The center we are at now, does also use the USDA food program, but they are willing to work with us regarding Genevieve's diet and are allowing us to bring our own food until she goes back to the doctor in September.  Until then, we have a pending request at the pediatrition's office for a doctor's note that will allow us to continue to provide Genevieve food from home instead of her eating the daycare's meals. 

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