THURSDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Healthier foods should be
served to children and adults in day care facilities that get meals
and snacks through a federally sponsored food program, a new U.S.
government report says.
The report from the Institute of Medicine calls for more fruits
and vegetables and less fat, salt and sugar.
Many of the most needy children and adults rely on the Child and
Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Suzanne P. Murphy, chair of the
committee that reviewed the food program, said during a Thursday
morning press conference.
"The current CACFP guidelines and regulations, however, are based on nutrition and health guidance that is nearly 20 years old," she said.
Food insecurity -- the uncertainty of having enough food to meet
a family's basic needs -- is rising in the United States, and
childhood obesity is soaring, added Murphy, a researcher and
professor at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii at the University
of Hawaii in Honolulu.
The report, titled
Child and Adult Care Food Program: Aligning Dietary Guidance for
All, calls for bringing the nutritional standards of the CACFP in line with the dietary guidelines used in other U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food programs, including the national school lunch and breakfast programs. The USDA funded the study.
CACFP is designed to help family day care homes, child-care and
after-school centers, adult care programs, emergency shelters and
other facilities to offer nutritious meals and snacks to people
from low-income families.
Under the CACFP program, facilities are reimbursed for foods
that meet CACFP standards.
About 3 million children and 114,000 adults received meals and
snacks through the program in fiscal year 2010, according to the
In its recommendations, the IOM builds on existing CACFP
standards, which set minimum amounts of foods in each meal and
exclude soft drinks and candy.
The report also calls for:
To accomplish these changes, the USDA will have to revamp the
CACFP program to provide better menu planning and preparation, and
to streamline the way CACFP monitors compliance with its standards
and reimbursements, the IOM says.
Enacting the recommendations will increase expenses, Murphy
said. For example, the costs for feeding children could jump as
much as 44 percent, she said.
Samantha Heller, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center
for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., said "it is
encouraging to see the Child and Adult Care Food Program making
healthy changes to its recommendations."
Requiring two vegetables at lunch and supper and fewer trans and
saturated fats are good steps, she said.
Noting that many program participants rely on CACFP for most of
their food intake, she said the changes could potentially have a
significant impact on the health of these families.
But it remains to be seen whether funding and personnel will be
provided to make the suggested changes, she said.
"In theory this report looks fine, but the reality is a long way down the road," she said. "In the meantime, parents and caregivers who are struggling financially need support and education at the community level on how to find and prepare affordable healthy foods for their families."
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