Early Care & Education

Early Care and Education (ECE) programs include child care centers, family daycare homes, and preschools. An important but often overlooked responsibility of ECE programs is to feed the children in their care. ECE providers have the opportunity to shape children’s food preferences and eating behaviors. By providing nutritious meals, snacks, and beverages, and using feeding practices that encourage healthy eating, the ECE setting can support the health of millions of young children in the US.

The ECE food environment is particularly important for children from low-income families who might lack the resources to provide adequate nutrition at home. Nationwide, 4.6 million children receive subsidized meals and snacks through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). CACFP reimburses participating programs for the foods served that meet specific nutrition standards. Despite the availability of these federal funds to help feed young children, many eligible ECE programs do not participate in CACFP. Surprisingly, many do not even know about the program. The Rudd Center is working to understand barriers to CACFP participation and help programs overcome them. Learn more about our work to expand CACFP, improve children's nutrition, and enhance training for providers below.

Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition & Physical Activity

The Connecticut State Department of Education’s Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies includes best practices for promoting healthy eating and physical activity for children in child care from infancy through school age, based on current science, public health research, and national recommendations and standards. It can be used in a variety of settings, including Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) facilities (centers, family day care homes, at-risk afterschool centers, and emergency shelters), Head Start centers, School Readiness programs, child care programs, early care and education programs, licensed centers, school-based preschool programs, and afterschool programs.

Access the Guide