Guest blogger: Texan mothers dish it up – Part 2: Daycare foods

The Texan mothers/teachers join us again (read their previous post on high school food) to detail the food environment in their daycare, which appears to be neither healthy nor safe. See: Daycare Nutrition Program and Chokable Foods

An Unstable Foundation

I’m new to this parenting gig, and I readily admit that I don’t know everything about raising a child. I am learning as I go – reading books, looking up information online and asking questions of those who are more experienced. I don’t know everything, but I do know that my 15 month old needs to eat, and for now, he is dependent on me getting his food to him.

He had breast milk for eight months and then we began transitioning to formula, baby foods, whole milk and solid food. I have been diligent in trying to provide him with fresh, healthy food because I am building his nutritional foundation, and I want it to be a healthy one. I was astounded when I was provided with the menu of foods served at his day care.

Let me begin by saying, he has had wonderful teachers who have cared for him well, and overall, I have been happy with the school… but who gives a 12 month old an ICE CREAM SANDWICH for a snack? Call me picky, but babies have not yet developed the taste for processed sugar… why introduce it so young?

To be fair, ice cream sandwiches are soft, so they could be eaten by a baby with a couple of teeth… unlike, say, a HAMBURGER and French fries. I am sure the teacher cut the hamburger in little pieces, but in my head, I was envisioning my baby sitting at his lunch table with an entire hamburger sitting in front of him wondering, “What is this and how do I get it in my mouth?”

Some of the other “high points” of the menu include: Little Smokies in barbecue sauce, franks and beans, beefy Sloppy Joe, frosted cake, corn chips, hot dogs and bologna and cheese roll-ups. All processed meats accounted for… check!

After seeing the menu, I made arrangements to send my child with his lunch and snacks every day and the teacher has been more than accommodating in feeding him what I send. I also shared the menu with some of the other parents and got some support (although minimal) for working to change the menu.

When spoke to some of the parents I was shocked by their response. They said things like:

  • I don’t like everything on the menu, but I do like the variety.
  • I wouldn’t mind healthier options, but when I looked at other daycare’s menus, they were worse.
  • I’m just glad he eats anything because he is so picky.
  • It’s not great, but we try to eat healthy at home to make up for it.

After a letter writing campaign, I am happy to say that the daycare has opted to change some of the snacks to healthier options like carrot and celery sticks (although I am still not sure how babies with little teeth pull off eating these). Parental awareness is definitely needed. Do parents even know what children are given to eat by their schools and should/do they care?

I think most parents send their children to school with the assumption that they will be well cared for, and many of them are just grateful their children will be receiving something to eat each day. We have to do better than this. We shouldn’t focus on how the school menus “could be worse”. We need to focus on how to make them better. As a society we have to begin to recognize the importance food plays in our health and do a better job of educating and providing our children with fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean meats. Our children are worth it.

I welcome your thoughts and comments, and I would love your ideas about healthy food options for babies, toddlers and growing children. What do you feed your child?


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Thanks for the insightful post. I shudder to think about how much fast food babies, toddlers, and preschoolers eat every day in out country.


NOTE: all guest bloggers have contacted me of their own free will, have given consent, do not know me personally, and are not receiving compensation. 

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52 Responses to Guest blogger: Texan mothers dish it up – Part 2: Daycare foods

  1. Maria April 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    I am loving that you address the issue of food in daycares. I currently work in a childcare center that my 2 year old also attends and am disgusted regularly at what we call "food" in this day and age. I am raising both of my girls vegetarian. My 9 year old takes her lunch, but I have been told that because I am an employee it would "look bad" if I don't allow my daughter to eat the school's food. I don't consider a slice of processed cheese on bread to be an adequate lunch and pairing it with frozen vegetables (which I have no problem with) that have been drenched in butter down't make it any healthier. The only thing that pleases me is the fresh fruit and the soymilk option.
    It should be illegal to abuse our children in the way the government allows schools to do by feeding them highly processed low (if any) nutritionaly dense foods and then recieve money for it in exchange!

  2. phillippa April 16, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    I'm an American from San Francisco, CA currently living in Paris, France. I have 2 young boys (3 years old and 19 months old) in a public daycare in which the fees are subsidized, depending on income; this to explain that the the following information on their meals really has little to do with socio-economic level.

    The children lunch there, seated at round tables replete with silverware and cups. My 20 month old's group does this as well, his group beginning at about 15 months old or slightly earlier. A friend of mine took photos (in the links below) of her child's menu (posted at the entrance of the daycare, as they do in ours) at her private daycare, and it reflects the quality and dishes that my kids eat daily. There's a cook on staff who really does cook their organic food daily, and he bakes cakes on birthdays.

    See below the photo for translations of dishes. http://tinyurl.com/yf8nm24 and http://tinyurl.com/ykphe6o

    All this to say, that while I don't know numbers/cost, I have to believe that while budget certainly has an impact on the quality of food, that there's a difference in the cultural value of nutrition as education.

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