October 13, 2011

Central Missouri Community Action Agency Head Start Centers earn 'Eat Smart' status

Center boosting children's nutrition with healthier meals and snacks

The Central Missouri Community Action Agency has adopted new guidelines for meals and snacks to promote healthier eating habits and improve the nutrition of children at the facility.

The Missouri Eat Smart Guidelines, developed by the state health department, are designed to boost the nutrition of children ages 2-12 and help them maintain a healthy weight. The guidelines include recommendations for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

"We are pleased that Central Missouri Community Action Agency is working to improve the health of the children it serves," said Margaret Donnelly, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services. "Child care facilities play an important role in providing young people with the nutrition they need for good health now and helping them learn life-long healthy habits."

The Eat Smart program is voluntary and open to child care facilities throughout Missouri that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Eat Smart recommendations include more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fewer processed foods, lower-fat milk, fewer sweet snacks, and nutritionally sound breakfast foods.

The program is offered at three levels: minimum, which are minimum CACFP and state licensing requirements, intermediate and advanced. Each level requires increasingly higher nutrition standards, and only centers that meet the intermediate or advanced levels are recognized with "Eat Smart Status."

In addition to menu recommendations, the Eat Smart Guidelines include education about healthy mealtime environments. Those recommendations include lessons about healthy eating habits, adult caregivers modeling healthy behaviors, family style meals, no television during mealtime and healthier classroom celebrations.

More information about the Eat Smart Guidelines can be found at: http://health.mo.gov/living/wellness/nutrition/eatsmartguidelines/index.php.