USDA proposes new nutrition standards for children in day care

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2014 - Meals provided to children and adults in day care would contain more fruits, whole grains and less sugar and fat under new “science-based” nutrition standards in a rule proposed by USDA.

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The standards would apply to meals provided through USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which helps feed 3 million children each day, the department said today in a release. The proposal is the first major update of the CACFP meal patterns since the program's inception in 1968.

“With over one in five children under the age of five being overweight or obese, the proposed improvements to the CACFP meal patterns will help safeguard the health of children early in their lives,” Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon said. “Providing children access to nutritious food early in life helps instill healthy habits that can serve as a foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices.”

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USDA said the updates -- based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommendations from the Institute for Medicine and stakeholder input - are required by the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. They are designed to work in concert with USDA's school meals standards, which have come under fire from Republicans in Congress for being impractical and too expensive.

The department said the recommended changes would not increase cost for providers. USDA said they are based on incremental changes and are “practical and achievable.” Along with the updated meal patterns, USDA is proposing best practices as a guide for providers when choosing to take additional steps to offer healthier meals.

“Not only does this program ensure nutritious meals for children,” Concannon said, “It also enables child care providers to sustain their businesses and provide affordable care to low income families.”

USDA said the public will have 90 days to comment on the proposed once it is published in the Federal Register next week.

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