225311 Food Costs and Nutritional Quality of Meals in CACFP-Participating Child Care Centers

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Kathryn E. Henderson, PhD , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Context: The majority of preschool-aged American children consume over half of their daily food in child care settings. Little is known about financial aspects of food service programs in child care centers and their role in preschoolers' diets.

Purpose: For a sample of CACFP-participating child care centers serving preschoolers (age 3-5) in Connecticut, we aimed to a) compare the cost of meals/snacks on menus of varying nutritional value; (b) investigate the cost structure of preschool food service; (c) analyze center-level predictors of the cost and content of menus (e.g., type of food service program, socio-demographics, preschool nutrition policies).

Methods: We estimated food costs using CT State Department of Education data on revenues and expenses by type/source from Income and Expenditure Reports and participation data from reimbursement claims for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. We obtained menus from centers for a random week within this period, and developed a scoring system reflecting overall nutrition quality and quality of targeted components (e.g., fruit and vegetable variety). The sample included 52 child care centers with complete financial and menu data.

Results: The average daily cost of school meals/snacks is $4.6 per child, but there are significant differences in costs by type of food service (e.g., service by teachers vs. contracted services) and center characteristics (e.g., HeadStart affiliation, sponsor size, percentage of low-income children, revenue source). We find few significant associations between nutritional measures and food costs suggesting that cost is not the main determinant of the quality of foods served to preschoolers.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe data on the structure and determinants of food costs in CACFP-participating child care centers in CT. 2. Examine the cost of serving meals and snacks of different nutritional value in preschools.

Keywords: Child Care, Food and Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Leading investigator on this study
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.