Local Childcare Centers Serve Healthier Fare

Now in its fourth year, the Winter Park Health Foundation has provided a grant to the Nemours Children’s Hospital’s Florida Prevention Initiative to implement a healthy habits for life (HHL) initiative in the early learning education (ELE) childcare centers serving families from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville. Ensuring children learn about and can access healthy foods, and that staff is modeling healthy eating behaviors, is a component of the HHL curriculum and wellness policy goals.

Nemours HHL Hebni Training2Recently staff members from five of the ELE childcare centers participated in a meal preparation training by Hebni Nutrition Consultants and funded through the WPHF grant. Unlike many of the other centers, these ELE centers cook meals on site for their population. It can be a challenge for the centers to prepare meals and snacks within a strict, and typically very tight, federally assigned budget. Therefore, these sites requested a training on how to create and prepare healthy, affordable and child-friendly meals and snacks for the children they serve.

The two-hour workshop included an introduction to Hebni Nutrition Consultants by its Executive Director, Roniece Weaver; a presentation by Hebni Director of Nutrition services, Fabiola Gaines; and a cooking demonstration. During the presentation, participants learned about family-style dining, modeling healthy behaviors, the components of a nutritious meal, tips on gaining kids attention with colorful meal components, “hiding” vegetables in kids’ favorite meals and cost comparisons for creating budget friendly menus. The cooking demonstration included a sweet potato and plum bread square and a Mexi-Cali taco boat. Both recipes were selected for their kid-friendly taste and nutritional content, ease of preparation and were provided to those in attendance. The training wrapped up with a presentation by two University of Central Florida faculty members in the College of Nursing who offered an opportunity for the ELE centers to participate in a “crockpot family meal” class, funded by a grant from Healthy Central Florida.

Margie Natera, with Nemours, stated “I think the workshop had a great impact for the programs that participated, some of which have already begun to make small changes to creating a healthier menu!”

As a follow up to the training, Hebni Nutrition Consultants offered to meet one-on-one with the ELE centers to review a week’s worth of menu items and make specific recommendations during a site visit. To-date, two centers have received the individual follow up using funding from a separate WPHF grant designated for eliminating barriers to implementing Nemours HHL policies. Robynn Demar, Executive Director, Welbourne Avenue Nursery opted for the site specific follow up stating “I really enjoyed the Hebni Nutrition Consultants training. We are presently in the process of changing our menus.  We opted for the one-on-one training with Hebni to assist us with updating our menus and USDA food program.”