CARTERVILLE, Ill.— Children in our community are getting a healthy start thanks to a local program provided to six early child care sites throughout Jackson County.

An early learning collaborative has been meeting for the last ten months to support child care centers implement best practices in early childhood nutrition and physical activity.  This project is a partnership with University of Illinois Extension, Jackson County Health Department and the Child Care Resource and Referral Center at John A. Logan College. The program provides a positive impact on childhood obesity through its enhancement of nutrition and physical activity environments, policies, and practices in early child care centers.

At the beginning of the collaborative, each participating center completed an online self-assessment tool, Nutrition and Physical Activity Self- Assessment for Child Care (Go NAP SACC) to identify successes and ideas for improvement. The results allowed them to work together to develop and implement an action plan to create a healthier child care center. Staff are attending professional development training sessions that allow them to learn the skills to give the children in their center a healthy start. It's also an opportunity for participants to collaborate, share ideas and discuss best practices.

The six centers participating in the program are Rainbow’s End Child Development Center, Presbyterian Child Development Center, Hannah House Child Development Center, Giant City Daycare, Kids Day Out Child Care Center and Preschool, and Murry’s Child Development Center.

At a recent session, each site showcased the healthy changes implemented in their centers since completing initial assessments, receiving technical assistance visits and participating in training sessions. Best practices include incorporating family-style meals into their meal program, making changes to their menus to include healthier choices, reducing the amount of fruit juice offered, role modeling better beverage choices and offering more water, establishing a garden, increasing opportunities for more indoor and outdoor physical activity and tasting new, colorful fruits and vegetables.

U of I SNAP-Ed Extension Educator Toni Kay Wright said, “We know that kids that are healthy and well taken care of will be more engaged in learning activities. It’s exciting to see child care sites make changes based on what they have learned through this collaborative and share their success. The changes that these centers have implemented and the relationships created through this collaboration will be sustained.”

Child care centers that are interested in completing the Go NAP SACC self-assessment should reach out to Toni Kay Wright at 618-993-3304 or tkwright@illinois.edu.

News Source: Toni Kay Wright, (618) 993-3304, tkwright@illinois.edu

News Writer: Heather Willis, (618) 357-2126, hdwillis@illinois.edu