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USDA Releases Practical, Promising Nutrition Curriculums for Kids

USDA Releases Practical, Promising Nutrition Curriculums for Kids

USDA has designed education programs about healthy eating for three young age groups

Everyone knows that the trick to getting your kids to eat right is drowning vegetables in cheese sauce. Or, better yet, “cleverly” hiding them in brownies.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) actually has another idea — and it doesn’t involve disguising vegetables or duping kids. (What’s so scary about vegetables, anyway?) The Department recently released three curriculums to help teach children about nutrition and healthy eating choices at a young age.

The Great Garden Detective Adventure curriculum, designed for third and fourth grades, features activities such as growing, harvesting, and tasting fruits and vegetables, as well as preparing basic recipes. “Garden-based learning opportunities are a promising way to boost academic achievement,” writes the Team Nutrition initiative of the USDA, which organized these programs. “Helping to increase children’s acceptance of fruits and vegetables can also improve their overall diets.”

The Dig In! curriculum was created for fifth and sixth grades. It includes a gardening guide, as well as home booklets for parents and posters that creatively personify vegetables as the kind of foods as “fun.” (Though it seems somewhat questionable why one poster riffs off a LMFAO song, for a ten to eleven year-old audience.)

The final curriculum is an updated version of Grow It, Try It, Like It!, a nutrition education kit made for preschool aged children. The program familiarizes kids with fresh fruits and vegetables, encouraging them to touch, taste, and smell the ingredients.

So the “trick” to getting kids to eat right may be as simple as showing them what’s behind the cheese sauce curtain. The free educational materials provided by the USDA can be found here.

USDA Team Nutrition Grants Promote Healthier Meals for Our Nation's Schoolchildren

Schools are successfully serving more nutritious meals to America's students, and healthier meals mean healthier kids. USDA is constantly working to do everything we can to support school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of up to $5.5 million in Team Nutrition training grants for states for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. These grants focus on the implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms - an innovative strategy using behavioral economics to encourage healthy eating in the cafeteria - as well as the healthier meal standards, HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), USDA Foods, nutrition education, and wellness activities in schools and child care institutions. To apply for the grants, state agencies should visit

Here are some examples of how Team Nutrition grants have helped schools in the past:

Alicia Dill, Nutrition Education Consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Team Nutrition Training Grants have allowed Wisconsin Team Nutrition to expand our nutrition education efforts in order to reach tens of thousands of students across the state. Since 2010, our nutrition education activities have placed an emphasis on incorporating gardening and the use of local foods into school and child care curriculum. Statewide culinary competitions have been held to provide education surrounding local foods and the development of culinary skills.

Additionally, funding has been provided to childcare and school sites to initiate gardening activities, conduct taste tests of local foods, and incorporate Team Nutrition developed nutrition education curriculum. Participating students have gained the knowledge and skills to produce and prepare foods and have shown an increased willingness to try fruits and vegetables. Nutrition education curriculum, taste testing materials, and a school gardening best practice guide have been created thanks to funding provided through the Team Nutrition Training grants.

Jenny Edmondson, Public Health Nutrition Consultant with the Pennsylvania Department of Education

Pennsylvania has had 12 USDA Team Nutrition grants. Each project has been implemented through Project PA, a collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food, and Nutrition, and Penn State University.

Projects have employed a variety of training strategies including video and print material development, conference and workshop presentations, school mini-grants, webinars, collection and dissemination of promising practices, and on-line module development. Projects have reached a variety of audiences including school food service employees, school administrators, parents, and students. The overall goal has been to help schools establish healthier nutrition environments.

Our most recently-completed project was a 2011 Team Nutrition grant. Through that project, we trained more than 1,200 school food service employees on meal pattern requirements and developed on-line training resources that were accessed more than 200 times during the timeframe of the grant. Those resources continue to be available, providing sustainability for the education provided. In addition, 27 schools representing nine school districts received HUSSC awards during the timeframe of the grant project.

Jill Ladd RD, Team Nutrition and ART II Project Director with Kansas State Department of Education

As part of the FY 2012 Team Nutrition Training grants, Kansas State Department of Education and nearly 17,000 students in grades K-5 participated in the 8-week Power Panther Pals nutrition education curriculum developed by Kansas Team Nutrition. As part of the lesson, students participated in cooking/tasting activities and received a student activity booklet with recipes and weekly activities.

Also, as part of the FY 2012 grants and partnership with the Kansas Health Foundation, Kansas reached over 17,600 secondary students through a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for Secondary Schools. Based on results from the pre and post surveys completed by participating students, 40.9 percent of students stated that their family has begun buying/eating more fruits and vegetables after participating in the program. A quote from a participating school revealed that, “The students were very excited about trying new foods and were very receptive to the program. At the end of the four weeks, the majority of students said they had their parents buy at least one of the fruits and vegetables we had tried to eat at home, and about half had tried the recipes we provided at home. I was also told by the produce manager at our local grocery store that he ran out of mangoes for two weeks after we featured it in the program.” – USD 113 Prairie Hills, Sabetha Middle School. As part of the program, 12 one-page nutrition education tip-sheets for fresh fruits and vegetables were developed and can be accessed at

Carrie Scheidel, Team Nutrition Co-Director with the Iowa Department of Education

The Iowa Department of Education’s Team Nutrition Program partnered with the University of Iowa Public Policy Center to address school breakfast participation among Iowa teens. To best address this issue, high school students from across the state were included in the project. These students identified barriers, motivators, and benefits to eating school breakfast which resulted in the development of two resources.

    : provides food service directors, cafeteria workers, and school administrators with information and resources to develop and manage their own Twitter account, including how to set up an account, how to develop messages, what to tweet about, and how to increase your followers. : offers the student perspective on practices related to school breakfast and provides solutions to common school breakfast challenges including: awareness, competing priorities, timing, location, food preferences, and misconceptions.

Iowa Team Nutrition also partnered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation to develop workshops for parents to empower them with information about school meals and school wellness. They are designed to be co-led by a registered dietitian nutritionist and the food service director. The developed materials have been piloted in 15 Iowa schools and include a leader guide, handouts, and a myth and fact activity.

Materials for Teens

Take Charge of Your Health: A Guide For Teenagers

A booklet from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases that is designed to help teenagers take small and simple steps to keep a healthy weight. It provides basic facts about nutrition and physical activity, and offers practical tools to use in everyday life, from reading food labels and selecting how much and what foods to eat, to replacing TV time with physical activities.

USDA Releases Practical, Promising Nutrition Curriculums for Kids - Recipes

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Orlando, FL, April 22, 2016 – Today, Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon announced strengthened nutrition standards for food and beverages served to young children and others in day care settings at the annual conference of the National Child and Adult Care Food Program Sponsors Association. Young children and adults in day care will now receive meals with more whole grains, a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, and less added sugars and solid fats. The science-based standards introduced in this final rule will elevate the nutritional quality of meals and snacks provided under the CACFP to better align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and to be consistent with the meals children receive as part of the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

“Research indicates that America's obesity problem starts young, with obesity rates in preschoolers more than doubling over the last three decades and one in eight preschoolers classified as obese,” said Concannon. “Since taste preference and eating habits develop early in life, CACFP could play a crucial role in the solution. This final rule marks another important step toward ensuring young children have access to the nutrition they need and develop healthy habits that will contribute to their well-being over the long term.”

The new meal patterns will improve access to healthy beverages, including low-fat and fat-free milk and water, and encourage breastfeeding for the youngest program participants. These standards reflect the nutritional improvements seen in children across the country since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

CACFP provides aid to child and adult care institutions and family or group day care homes for the provision of nutritious foods that contribute to the growth and development of children and the health and wellness of older adults and chronically impaired disabled persons. Through the CACFP, over 4 million children and nearly 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the care they receive.

This is the first major revision of the CACFP meal patterns since the program's inception in 1968 and will require meals and snacks provided through the CACFP to better reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the nutritional issues facing young children and adults today. These changes are a meaningful first step in improving CACFP participants’ access to nutritious foods. Since the inception of CACFP, the most prevalent nutrition-related health problems among participants have shifted from malnutrition to overconsumption, including calories, saturated fats, added sugar, and sodium. These vulnerable populations also tend to under consume of fiber and other essential nutrients.

The new standards were carefully designed to make significant, achievable, and cost-neutral improvements to the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks served through CACFP. USDA focused on incremental changes that balance the science behind the nutritional needs of the diverse CACFP participants and the practical abilities of participating centers and day care homes to implement these changes. By setting an implementation date of October 1, 2017, the final rule provides ample lead time for centers and day care homes to learn and understand the new meal pattern standards before they are required to be in full compliance. USDA will provide in-person and online trainings and is developing new resources and training materials, such as menu planning tools, new and updated recipes, and tip sheets, to ensure successful implementation of the new nutrition standards.

This announcement is part of USDA's continued commitment to ensuring children and families have access to a healthy diet. Over the past seven years, USDA has enhanced federal nutrition programs, providing a critical safety net for millions of American children and families. Some examples include, updated nutrition standards for school nutrition, the updated WIC package to include whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, expanding the scope of the SNAP nutrition education program, and supporting an unprecedented growth in the number of farmers markets that accept SNAP and WIC benefits. By expanding access to nutritious foods and increasing awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, USDA programs have made a real difference in the lives of many, promising a brighter, healthier future for our nation.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program is one of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s 15 nutrition assistance programs, which also include the National School Lunch Program, Summer Food Service Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together, these programs comprise America's nutrition safety net.

Promote healthy eating habits in your family child care or early education program with these resources and lesson plans.

Best Practices for Healthy Eating: In this guide from Nemours, find tips for healthy food choices, appropriate portion sizes, engaging children and motivating picky eaters. Also available are tips and tools for reading nutrition labels, tip sheets for families, and sample policies for use in your program and with families.

Child and Adult Care Food Program: Using the Updated Meal Patterns to Lower Costs provides guidance for CACFP centers and family child care homes to help keep costs low while implementing updated meal patterns. It includes examples of nutritious meals that meet new meal patterns by making simple, low-cost switches.

Children Facing Food Insecurity (PDF): Having enough quality food to feed our families is something many people take for granted. However, one in five U.S. families does not have access at all times to enough food to live a healthy, active life. This guide from Nemours teaches how food insecurity affects children in early care and education programs, and how you can support children and parents dealing with food insecurity.

Family Style Dining Toolkit: This guide is intended to help early care and learning professionals and their programs, including centerbased, family child care, Head Start and public preschools, successfully implement Family Style Dining practices. This guide focuses on serving meals family style with toddlers and preschoolers, though afterschool programs may adopt these practices as well.

Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs (USDA): This manual helps you and your purchasing agent buy the right amount of food, the appropriate type of food, and determine the specific contribution each food makes toward the meal pattern requirements.

Growing Fit Kit: The Georgia Department of Public Health (in collaboration with Georgia Shape, HealthMPowers, Inc. and the Department of Early Care and Learning) developed the Growing Fit Kit, a guide to develop or improve child care policies around nutrition and physical activity.

Healthy Bites: A Wisconsin guide for improving childhood nutrition. Provides a self-assessment to allow early care and education programs to freely assess their own environment, program policies and practices as they relate to nutrition. The guide also suggests key areas for improvement and information on how to implement strategies.

Healthy Eating Resource List: This comprehensive list of resources from Penn State’s Better Kid Care lessons and Nemours includes off-the-shelf curricula and toolkits, videos, healthy recipes, menu planning and prepping ideas, information on CACFP, learning about hunger cues in preschoolers, and self-assessment tools.

Healthy Vending : You and your program can play an important role in supporting healthy eating habits by making healthy vending options available and attractive to children and adults. This guide from Nemours will help you choose healthier products by providing healthy vending guidelines for food and beverage products, sample policies and more.

Integrated Nutrition Education Program (INEP Curriculum): INEP is a creative and fun way for kids to learn about healthy eating in their classroom and to share what they learn with their families. Each lesson includes a hands-on cooking activity that teaches students how to prepare and taste new fruits and vegetables (also in Spanish).

New Meal Pattern Guidelines for CACFP: Early care and education programs who receive food program assistance–USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)–have until October 1, 2017 to be in compliance with new CACFP guidelines. Make sure your menus and procurement reflect these changes.

School Wellness Policy: Best Practices for Policy Development, Implementation and Evaluation from the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction is designed to help schools implement wellness policies. Policies should include: involvement of stakeholders goals for nutrition guidelines for all foods available at school, nutrition education and promotion, as well as physical education and activity notifications and monitoring and evaluation.

Successful Menu Planning (PDF): This resource is designed for child nutrition professionals interested in learning the current USDA Menu Planning Requirements. Topics include breakfast and lunch meal patterns, the whole grain requirement, fruit and vegetable requirements, offer versus serve, sodium requirements, and others. In addition, related resources and tools to assist in successful menu planning are provided.

Taking Steps to Healthy Success—Family Style Dining: Better Kid Care, through PennState Extension, provides a list of tools and information about family style dining. Resources include off-the-shelf curricula and toolkits, videos, tip sheets, and information on family engagement.

Taking Steps to Healthy Success—Healthy Eating: Better Kid Care, through PennState Extension, provides a list of tools and information about healthy eating. Resources include off-the-shelf curricula and toolkits videos recipes self-assessments and information on planning menus, CACFP, hunger cues, and picky eating.

USDA Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit: Engage school staff and parents in school wellness using these ready-to-go communication tools. Sharing news about your Local School Wellness Policy is easy with these flyers, presentations, newsletter articles and social media posts. Your school can personalize them to make them specific to your Local School Wellness Policy activities.

Addressing inequities in healthy eating (Health Promotion International): What, when, where and how much people eat is influenced by a complex mix of factors at societal, community and individual levels. These influences operate both directly through the food system and indirectly through political, economic, social and cultural pathways that cause social stratification and influence the quality of conditions in which people live their lives. These factors are the social determinants of inequities in healthy eating. This paper provides an overview of the current evidence base for addressing these determinants and for the promotion of equity in healthy eating.

Barriers to Equity in Nutritional Health for U.S. Children and Adolescents: A Review of the Literature (Springer Link): U.S. children and adolescents from low-income and ethnic/racial minority backgrounds experience greater risk for obesity and poor nutrition. In addition, a growing body of evidence documents differences in obesity and dietary patterns between urban and rural areas. This review summarizes evidence of relevance to U.S. disparities according to socioeconomic status, ethnicity/race, and area population density among children ages 2-18 years. A comprehensive review of peer-reviewed literature published after January 2004 is presented along with a brief discussion of limitations in design and future research needs.

Eating, Feeding, Meal Planning, and Nutrition for Child with Nutritional Difficulties: The HIE Help Center provides resources on nutrition for kids with disabilities. Kids with disabilities often face unique feeding challenges and require very specific diets.

Health equity & junk food marketing: Talking about targeting kids of color (Berkeley Media Studies Group): To ensure that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible, we must remove obstacles to health. In the United States, junk food marketing to children is one of those obstacles because it encourages unhealthy diets and, ultimately, fuels disease. Such marketing is also a racial and health equity issue because junk food companies specifically target children and youth of color. This brief shows why children of color should be at the forefront of conversations about and actions to reduce target marketing, and suggest how we all can get better at discussing this critical public health and social justice issue.

Targeting Food and Beverage TV Ads at Minority and Low Income Children (Bridging the Gap Research): Marketing of foods and beverages that are unhealthy (i.e. high in saturated fat, sugar and/or sodium) to children and adolescents is a probable contributor to the prevalence of childhood obesity. This study focused on 88 of the largest designated marketing areas (DMAs) in the US. It linked DMA-level Nielsen English language television ratings data from 2003-2007 on the number of televised food ads to Census data on racial, ethnic, and income characteristics across DMAs. The study analyzed differences in children’s and adolescents’ exposure to local spot food ads based on the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of the DMA.

Early Introductions to Sensory Gardens: Infants and toddlers are often thought of as “too young” to be involved in gardening, but they can be engaged through watering, harvesting, digging, and exploring.

Early Learning Gardening Guide (North Okanagan Early Childhood Development Coalition): This guide is useful on its own or with the book Square Foot Gardening. Children will enjoy any type of gardening or growing experience including container gardening in a pot or bucket.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Farm to School (NFSN): The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes many new opportunities for the integration of farm to school and ECE activities in educational settings. This toolkit is designed for educators, advocates, parents, and farm to school and ECE stakeholders to understand and act upon the opportunities ESSA provides.

Farm to Early Care and Education Funding Opportunity: Leveraging the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (NFSN and Policy Equity Group)

Farm to Early Childhood Programs — A Step-By-Step Guide: This guide provides tools and resources to help early childhood program providers of all types purchase and use local foods.

Farm to Preschool: Nutrition and garden-based preschool education curricula, advice on starting new gardens, parent education workshop templates and resources promoting healthy eating.

Farm to Preschool Presentation (PDF): Explains the basics of Farm to Preschool, the goals of the movement, steps to get started and resources to support your efforts.

Farm to Preschool Toolkit: This toolkit contains information about getting started with Farm to Preschool, rules and regulations, recommendations for local procurement, and monthly resources.

Farm to School Bookshelf: Find books for teaching preschoolers about gardening, cooking, farms and food.

Farm to School in Early Childhood: Survey Results: In 2015, the National Farm to School Network surveyed early care and education providers across the country to better understand their current farm to school initiatives, motivations for applying farm to school, and challenges to starting or expanding these activities.

Food Safety from Farm and Garden to Preschool Training Program (U Mass): The free, online, self-paced, interactive program was created to help early childcare educators, food service staff, volunteers and parents understand the importance of reducing the risk of food safety related to fresh fruits and vegetables for young children.

Food Safety Tips for School Gardens: These best practices will help enhance the safety of fruits and vegetables grown in school gardens.

Garden Greenhouses (Exchange: The Early Childhood Leaders’ Magazine): This article presents an interview with Jennifer Petersen, a preschool teacher at the Mead School — an independent school and child care in Stamford, Connecticut with a vibrant gardening and greenhouse curriculum.

Gardening Interventions to Increase Vegetable Consumption Among Children (Guide to Community Preventive Services): This one page handout summarizes recommendations and systematic review evidence for the use of school-based gardening interventions in combination with nutrition education to increase children’s vegetable consumption.

Getting Started With Farm to Preschool Tip Sheet: Easy first steps to develop a lasting farm to preschool program in your community

Grants (Kids Gardening): Finding the financial resources to plant and maintain a youth garden is one of the biggest obstacles educators and volunteers face. Here is a list of some grant opportunities that support youth garden programs.

The GREEN Tool (Garden Resources, Education, and Environment Nexus) For Well-Integrated School Gardens: This research brief describes a background study that led to the conception of the GREEN Tool and highlights how it can be used to strengthen school gardens. The purpose of the study was to examine which components make up a well-integrated garden in schools and to determine how those components work together.

Growing Farm to Preschool in Your State—A How-To Guide (Ecotrust): A state-level approach to farm to preschool is key to bringing local food and garden education to child care centers nationally. Here’s a 5-step guide to constructing a farm to preschool coalition

Growing Head Start Success with Farm to Early Care and Education (NFSN): Growing Head Start Success with Farm to Early Care and Education aims to promote understanding amongst Head Start stakeholders on how Farm to ECE can support achievement of Head Start Program Performance Standards and actively contributes to learning and development benchmarks as outlined in the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework.

A Guide to Understanding Farm to School Opportunities in Early Care and Education Settings (National Farm to School Network): This resource is intended to facilitate a shared understanding of the early care and education sector and the natural opportunities to integrate farm to school initiatives into early care and education settings.

How to Bring Farm Fresh into Schools with New USDA Meal Pattern Recipes (archived webinar): The Chef Ann Foundation launched fifty new, tried-and-true, farm-to-school recipes to bring farm fresh meals to students. In this webinar, they release the new recipes and menu cycles and discuss how they credit toward schools and new child care meal patterns. Plus, Andrea Northup from USDA Farm to School and Jerilin Nunu from USDA Farm to Summer and Child Care talk about how school districts across the nation are procuring food from local and regional farms and ranches. They also share best practices for lunchroom-based nutrition education.

How to Incorporate Gardening in Your Early Care and Education Program (pre-recorded webinar): Join Nemours Children’s Health System in a conversation around creating vegetable gardens. Explore ways to create a vegetable garden in your program. During this webinar, participants will learn: how to build a vegetable garden, tips for making the process affordable, alternatives to vegetable gardens, seasonal vegetables and fruits at the local farmer’s market, and success stories. Nemours Healthy Living and Nutrition Office Hours is hosted by Adaobi Nwoka, MPH.

Local Procurement for Child Care Centers Fact Sheet and Local Procurement for Family Child Care Providers Fact Sheet: These fact sheets outline basic recommendations for child care centers and family child care providers interested in purchasing local foods for early child care and education programs.

Local Foods — Childcare Center Production Gardens: This publication is a complete “how-to” guide about fruit and vegetable gardening with children. It teaches childcare providers how to engage young children in using fresh produce from a production garden for cooking and eating, as well as instructions on composting. The guide is in eight well-organized brief chapters, complete with age-appropriate instructions on: (1) Growing and Cooking Fruits and Vegetables, including safety precautions and tools required (2) Creating Childcare Center Production Gardens, including location considerations and types of layouts (3) Growing Warm-Season Fruits and Vegetables, including planting options and growing guidelines (4) Growing Cool-Season Vegetables, including how to plant and harvest specific vegetables (5) Snacking and Cooking With Warm- Season Produce, including recipes for salads, dips, salsas and cooked vegetables (6) Snacking and Cooking With Cool-Season Produce, including recipes for salads, as well as for roasted, sauteed and braised vegetables (7) Composting, including guidance on design, construction and management of compost bins and (8) Vermicomposting, including selection, safety, educating children on and handling of the correct earthworms.

My First Garden (University of Illinois Extension): Get ready to make learning about gardens, flowers, vegetables and the principles of horticulture a fun experience for yourself and for the children you teach (also available in Spanish).

National Farm to School Network, Farm to Preschool: Find information from the National Farm to School Network on the basics of farm to preschool, getting started with farm to preschool, and information on local procurement for child care centers and home based child care.

National Farm to School Network Resource Database: The National Farm to School Network has reviewed and compiled farm to preschool resources from across the country to create this user friendly database.

National Farm to School Network Trending Topics Webinars: Join the National Farm to School Network for a monthly webinar series featuring innovation and emerging issues in farm to school. Recordings available.

Reach for the Stars With Farm to Preschool: This resource helps child care centers and family child care homes integrate farm to preschool activities into their curriculum. The resource is organized by four activities: edible gardening, farm field trips and farmer visits, local food classroom cooking activities and taste tests, and serving local food in daily meals.

A Roadmap for Farm to Early Care and Education (NFSN): This resource is intended for use by stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to facilitate a shared understanding of the early care and education sector and the natural opportunities to integrate farm to school initiatives into early care and education settings.

Seeding the Movement—Materials for Starting Your Own Farm to Preschool Mini-Grant Program (Ecotrust): This toolkit contains a collection of adaptable Word templates for developing a mini-grant application, selecting grantees, establishing a peer-to-peer network among grantees, and conducting evaluation and reporting.

Setting Up and Running a School Garden (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations): This guide is for anyone who is interested in starting or improving a school garden — teachers, parents, and/or community members.

State Farm to School Networks Toolkit (NFSN): The toolkit is designed to demonstrate best practices and lessons learned from existing state farm to school networks and to provide users with key strategies and approaches for developing and sustaining state farm to school networks.

This Week in the Garden: This is an example of regional work connecting fresh, healthy food with communities. This particular program works with WIC, SNAP-ED and provides specific examples of monthly gardening newsletter templates for providers to use in integrating Farm to Preschool into the classroom.

Vegetable Gardening in Containers (Texas A&M University Extension): Container vegetable gardening is a sure way to introduce children to the joys and rewards of vegetable gardening. Problems with soilborne diseases, pests, or poor soil conditions can be easily overcome by switching to a container garden.

First Aid – Choking: Choking can be a life-threatening emergency. Follow these steps if one of your children is choking.

Food Allergies: Food allergies can cause serious reactions. Find out how to keep kids safe and respond in an emergency.

My Native Plate and My Native Plate for Families (PDF): These handouts remind families about portion sizes and to include fruits, vegetables, grains and protein with every meal.

Physical Activity Kit for Young Children (PAK) — Staying on the Active Path in Native Communities
(PDF): This vast resource for child care providers contains culturally appropriate physical activities and movements for babies, toddlers and preschool children.

Budget for More Fruits and Vegetables (Better Kid Care): Fruits and vegetables are essential in everyday meal planning. This resource can help you extend your fruit and vegetable resources and also keep your budget manageable.

CACFP Menu Planning Guide: This resource, developed by Nemours and funded by the USDA, is a toolkit intended to serve as a practical, how-to guide for CACFP participants. It also includes 120 CACFP-reimbursable recipes.

Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping for Your Early Child Care Program (pre-recorded webinar): Join Nemours Children’s Health System in a conversation around meal planning and grocery shopping.

Meal Planning, Shopping and Budgeting: Learn more about meal planning, shopping, and budgeting as well as food preparation and healthy, low-cost recipes from the USDA.

Processed Foods—What’s OK and What to Avoid (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics): While some processed foods should be consumed with caution, many have a place in a balanced diet. Here’s how to sort the nutritious from the not-so-nutritious.

Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Better Taste: This resource from the University of California Davis contains great reminders on where to store fruits and veggies. Print it out and hang the fridge as a reminder, or hand out to parents.

Supermarket Savings: This University of Nebraska Lincoln extension resource gives 16 tips with examples on how to save money when shopping.

Using the Nutrition Facts Label for Older Adults: This resource from the FDA is helpful for adults to manage their health and learn more about food labels.

Your Food Is Trying To Tell You Something — A Video for Kids on Using the Nutrition Facts Label to Make Healthy Dietary Choices (USDA/FDA): This colorful animated video short for kids focuses on using the Nutrition Facts Label to make healthy dietary choices.

Alternatives to Using Food as a Reward: This job aid from Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA) lists alternatives to using sweet treats as rewards or as comfort food.

Choose My Plate Print Materials: Choose My Plate has a number of tip sheets available to print in English and Spanish. Topics include: Kid-Friendly Veggies and Fruits, Cut Back on Kids’ Sweet Treats and many more.

Making the Most of Meal Times: Includes tips on family style dining, encouraging children to eat a variety of healthy foods, and engaging children in pleasant conversation during meals.

Creative Activities

Healthy Celebrations at School from the Sacramento City Unified School District

Monthly Healthy Celebration Ideas from the Center for Science in the Public Interest

School Celebration Ideas from North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More

Menu/Snack Ideas

Celebration Tips from Alliance for Healthier Generation

Classroom Snacks and Celebrations from the Iowa City Community School District

Healthy Celebrations from the Kansas State Department of Education

Ideas for Healthy Celebrations from the Connecticut State Department of Education

Classroom Celebrations Resources from Weld County in Greenley, Colorado

Healthy School Celebration Guide from University of Colorado Health

Let’s Party from the West Virginia Department of Education

CACFP Creditable Recipes: The National CACFP Sponsors Association has lots of great recipes for menu planning, including recipes from favorite Sesame Street characters.

CACFP Recipes from Around the World: Delicious kid-friendly dishes from North, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Pacific Islands.

Cooking With Preschoolers: It may take a little flexibility and prep work, but time in the kitchen with preschoolers can be educational, boost kids’ confidence and promote healthy eating.

Exploring Foods Together: Help young children learn to love healthy food. Exploring Food Together is a toolkit of simple activities to help kids learn about new foods and start building the skills to make healthy food choices.

Healthy from the Start: In this booklet, you will learn how meal and snack times give you a chance to help children learn healthy eating habits feel important, loved, understood and respected trust that others will care for them and feel good about their bodies.

Healthy Habits for Life: Food and Drink to Grow On: The Healthy Habits for Life Child Care Resource Kit gives you the tools you need to teach children about eating right and being physically active so that they can establish healthy habits for life. This section offers easy and fun ideas and activities to help children learn about fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods.

Leftover Smart Snacks (Better Kid Care): Many caregivers are concerned about rising food costs. Discover easy cost-effective strategies for lunch and snack times that can help lower food costs and food waste.

Multicultural Recipes: Delicious foods from different regions for child care centers and family day homes (downloadable PDF).

Nutrition Guide for Toddlers: This article reviews the variety of food a toddler should receive, how much food they need, and the need for milk and iron at this stage in life.

Recipes for Healthy Kids — Cookbook for Child Care Centers: The recipes in the cookbook feature foods both children and adults should consume more of: dark green and orange vegetables, dry beans and peas, and whole grains. All of these healthy recipes are low in total fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium.

Snacks for Preschoolers: Wholesome and well-timed snacks can help fill in nutritional gaps for preschoolers. Turn your kids into smart snackers by getting creative with healthy foods.

Snacks for Toddlers: Some toddlers may seem too busy exploring to slow down and eat. Others may be fickle about food. That’s where healthy, scheduled snacks come in.

Storytime Snacks, Sandwich Makeovers, and Taste Tests (Better Kid Care): This is a helpful list of lunch and snack ideas and nutrition resource pages.

Strategies for Feeding a Preschooler: The preschool years are a great time to teach children about healthy food choices in new and exciting ways.

Super Easy Snacks, Tips for Trying New Foods, and Dietary Cautions (Better Kid Care): Use these easy, fun tips to help you eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables every day.

Toddlers at the Table — Avoiding Power Struggles: By anticipating problems and offering choices, you can teach toddlers healthy eating habits and avoid power struggles about food.

Washington Grown Food Kit: Healthy recipes for child care and early education programs searchable by recipes in season, sample menus and nutrition facts.

What’s Cooking: A robust resource from the USDA about healthy eating and cooking tips includes recipes for large groups to help with menu planning.


Development of Infant Feeding Skills (USDA WIC Works): This resource provides an overview of the development of feeding skills, the rate of acquisition of skills, and the feeding relationship.

Developmental Stages in Infant and Toddler Feeding (Infant and Toddler Forum): This factsheet aims to provide childcare professionals with an evidence-based description of the developmental stages observed around food and feeding in infants and young children.

Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach (Healthy Eating Research): This report presents evidence-based recommendations for promoting healthy nutrition and feeding patterns for infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months.

Infant Development and Feeding Support: Developmental milestones are used as markers to ensure that infants and toddlers are growing in a healthy direction. During early years, a child’s relationship with food is crucial for his or her health and development. Learning the physical stages that relate to feeding is important to understanding this process.

Infant Developmental Skills (USDA WIC Works): This job aid illustrates infant developmental skills and infant hunger cues in a convenient chart format.

Infant Food and Feeding (American Academy of Pediatrics): Explore information about breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, solid food introduction, healthy snacking, self-feeding, and healthy drinks for babies and toddlers.

Infant Responsive Feeding and Breastfeeding (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment): A collection of infant responsive feeding and breastfeeding resources, including Healthy Children: Ages and Stages, Baby Behavior, Building a Foundation for Healthy Active Living, and Infant Nutrition.

Infant States and Cues (United States Department of Agriculture): A convenient handout illustrating six infant states (deep sleep, light sleep, drowsy, quiet alert, irritable, crying) and cues (engagement and disengagement).

Responsive Feeding (UNC Gilling’s School of Global Public Health): Includes handouts on responsive feeding and a culturally adaptable responsive feeding curriculum.

Responsive Feeding Help Sheet (SMA Nutrition UK): A guide for parents to learn about responsive feeding, understand the benefits, and how to apply it to breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.

Understanding the Behavior of Term Infants — Infant Behavior, Reflexes and Cues (March of Dimes): Learn about how to read infant behavior. Infant behavior is influenced by environment, temperament and the ability of the infant to self-regulate. Behaviors are often cues that signal an infant’s needs.

Online Professional Development

Picky Eaters: A Guide to Responsive Feeding (K7.13 C2) (CDA2) – Better Kid Care On-Demand Lessons (2 hrs)

Responsive Feeding for Infants and Young Toddlers: Responsive Feeding is an online course for early care and education (ECE) providers about responsive feeding best practices and on how to implement these best practices. (40 min)

Parents are often the biggest drivers of change in schools. Every school is required to have a Wellness Committee, so I recommend joining this and being as active as possible. I have seen many PTA groups take on food service as a project, whether it’s fundraising to supplement the food service budget, or providing feedback to the administration.

The lunchroom is a classroom, and we are exposing students to nutritious food that they may not get at home. Thus, we are training their minds and palates to make healthy choices for a lifetime.

Physical Activity-Related Curricula

We Can! offers six curricula that address physical activity.

    is a multi-session program for parents and caregivers that includes one session dedicated to reducing screen time and increasing physical activity in youth. is a 10-lesson curriculum designed to help youth ages 11 to 13 understand the connections between media and health. (ICDI) is a mentoring program offered by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) that facilitates physical activity and nutrition education opportunities for children and adults with disabilities. is an evidence-based curriculum for after-school and community recreation settings, that includes lessons and activities to motivate heart-healthy behavior in children in grades K-5. are evidence-based programs designed to promote physical activity in youth from K-12, and ages 5-14, respectively. They include curricula, training, equipment, and follow-up support components. is a new health educational curriculum for children ages 2-5 and their parents. EatPlayGrow was created through a collaboration between the NIH and the Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM). The EatPlayGrow curriculum combines the latest science and research from the NIH with CMOM's creative educational approach to teach kids and their parents how to make healthy nutrition and physical activity choices that are fun and easy to include in daily routines.

New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks

This beautifully produced online cookbook features over 70 farm-to-school recipes from throughout Vermont, many accompanied with inviting color photographs. Each recipe is in USDA format, yields school-sized quantities, includes a nutritional analysis and contains information on the specific food components that credit towards meeting the USDA meal pattern. It also includes helpful tips on introducing kids to new menu items and information on seasonality. Click here to download the cookbook.

The Hidden Sugar Truth

Ingredients: Cereal: Corn Flour, Sugar*, Oat Flour, Brown Sugar*, Coconut Oil, Salt, Niacinamide, Yellow 5, Reduced Iron, Zinc Oxide, Yellow 6, Thiamin, Mononitrate, BHT (A preservative), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Folic Acid

The words marked in asterisk refer to added sugar. Added sugar is the sugar added to processed food and drinks while they are being made. Naturally occurring sugar is the sugar found in whole, unprocessed foods, such as milk, fruit, vegetables, and some grains.

A Chinese translation of the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module was developed by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco in collaboration with ERS and documented in Christine M.L. Kwan, Anna M. Napoles, Jeyling Chou, and Hilary K. Seligman, 2015, "Development of a conceptually equivalent Chinese-language translation of the US Household Food Security Survey Module for Chinese immigrants to the USA," Public Health Nutrition 18(2): 242-250 and Courtney R. Lyles, Mark Nord, Jeyling Chou, Christine M.L. Kwan and Hilary K. Seligman, 2015, "The San Francisco Chinese Food Security Module: Validation of a Translation of the US Household Food Security Survey Module," Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 10(2): 189-201. ERS recommends that this translation be used among Chinese-speaking adults within the United States. Download the questionnaire in the format that works for you: PDF or Microsoft Word.

Additional questionnaire items about food security, food sufficiency, food expenditures, use of food programs, and other ways of coping with food insecurity are included in the CPS Food Security Supplements but are not in the core food security module. Go to the Food Security in the United States data product to download any of the CPS Food Security Supplement Questionnaires in English, or download a Spanish translation in the format that works for you: PDF or Microsoft Word.