Changing Day Care Food (Part two)

So where did I leave off again…. Oh yeah, the day care called me at work.

Every working mom dreads the phone call from day care. The moment of panic when you see you missed a call from the day care. Immediately you fear the worst. I picture my little boy sweaty with a fever, crying inconsolably. You can’t dial fast enough. I just want to beam myself there pronto.

And then other times, I admit that I’m annoyed. I want to be at work. I have stuff that needs to get done, a schedule to keep. The idea of chucking it all to run out of the school is not appealing. I want to be there for my son, but on important days where I would prefer to stay at work, my husband and I compare notes and see who ideally can leave. It’s excruciating to have to make that choice though. I feel guilt no matter what I do.


I keep my cell phone in my purse on silent at work. Over lunch I checked my phone and saw my day care had called. That feeling of slow moving dread came over my body. I called them back.

Immediately the daytime director told me that there was nothing wrong with my son. She said she was calling to talk about the letter. She said she appreciated the feedback and that they were developing a survey to send out to all parents about the food at the day care.

They read my letter and decided to do what I suggested. Whoa.

In my letter one of the things I had mentioned how some moms were upset about ice cream being served sometimes twice a week. She disputed that ice cream was ever served twice in one week. She said it was served once a month. I guess she doesn’t realize that I obsessively keep track of their menu.

I told her that ice cream was definitely served once a week. Her response, “You should see how many fresh apples and oranges we throw out!”

Thankfully I thought of a retort on the spot (go me!). I said, “You know, I think parents need to know that. If parents knew that fresh fruit was being wasted, they could tell their kids in the morning, ‘Joey, don’t forget to eat your snack of fruit today!” Maybe that’s being optimistic of me, but remember that it’s a day care center so kids are young (6 weeks old to kindergarten) and still highly influenced by parents and adults.

When kids reject apples and oranges, it doesn’t justify offering ice cream just because they’ll eat it! Kids who are under-weight or nutritionally deficient need calories in any form, but the kids at my son’s day care seem to be of normal health. Giving them ice cream just to get them to eat something is extreme to say the least.

Anyway, our conversation continued and she said that they would get the survey ready to send out within the next day or so.

Before I picked up my son from day care, I had received an email from the day care with a link to an online survey through Seriously. I don’t think I have ever felt more positive about my son’s daycare than I felt at that moment.

The first link they sent out had a glitch. I found that out because one of my friends emailed me to ask, “Did you get that survey link from the day care? Did you have trouble filling it out?” They fixed it and sent out an updated email.

I did the survey a couple days later. The only thing the day care didn’t do was notify parents about the survey on paper (like on the daily summary sheets we get). That would have been a great reminder. I have the survey results because they did print those out after they closed the survey and they shared them with all the parents. Some of the responses made me sad while others were aligned with how I think.

I’ll share the survey results in the last installment of this series as well as my next steps! Also later this week I’m going to survey you to find out what you like to eat for lunch. Can you believe how responsive they were to my suggestion? I also think that doing that survey earns them major points with parents too.

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11 thoughts on “Changing Day Care Food (Part two)

  1. How encouraging! I'm glad to see your son's daycare was so responsive. I hope this leads to some positive changes in the daycare food. If the food were changed, would you be inclined to let your son eat the food once or twice a week, or do you think his food intolerances would still require him to bring a lunch?

    Thanks for another great post!

  2. THIS is where to start with school food reform! I've been trying to convince Jamie Oliver's "people" for the past two years to head on over to a child care center with his cameras.
    Plant a garden, get teachers and parents on board. Have once a month parent events to support them with better food for their kids.
    I did all of this back in 2003-2005 at a child care center. We even did a "slow cooker event. We loaded 10+ slow cookers with different foods early in the day and fed 50+ parents that night. We raffled off a slow cooker too.
    Parents need support early on (not criticism) to make the effort to introduce good food instead of goldfish and nuggets. The results are HUGE!

    BRAVO, MrsQ! Keep plugging away at childcare, it will help heal the broken K-12 system.

  3. I can't wait to see the results of the survey. I've worked in several child care centers and now do home day care. The lack of education in staff and parents about nutrition is just so sad. They have no idea that canned ravioli and goldfish isn't a complete or healthy lunch.
    On a side note, I serve almost all whole foods here and guess what, the kids eat it! (I am not on any food program.) Transition would be hard, but the results would be worth it.

  4. Just have to share. Out of nowhere yesterday, a nutrition survey come home with my son from daycare. (Even though we had a week to complete it, my survey was completed and returned this morning.) 🙂

    I work in communications for a nationally well-known university/medical center, and my son attends a daycare center reserved for children of faculty and staff. It's a great environment (we spent about a year on the waiting list … thank goodness I added us as soon as I found out we were expecting) and they do a pretty good job on the food (no ice cream snacks), but I was definitely excited to learn that some changes may be in the works! Apparently a med school student specializing in children's nutrition is for her final project analyzing the center's current food offerings and making recommendations on how to implement a plan to be more nutritionally sound for the children while not increasing costs/inconvenience for the center. Exciting stuff … definitely will keep you posted!

  5. I will just that when we tried a similar thing at my daughter's daycare it was extremely disappointing. Many parents were actually upset that the daycare didn't serve syrup with pancakes (they serve applesauce) instead of being upset that they serve pancakes regularly at all. Many are of the opinion that you feed them whatever they will eat so they don't go hungry. I know and you know that if you offer a kid an orange but they know that if they refuse the orange they'll get ice cream, they will refuse it every time. If you offer them an orange and that's consistently their only option, they will eat the dang orange. It makes me sad that there are so many parents out there who are ignorant of nurtition and think the highly processed junk being served in day cares and schools across the country is actually healthy. 🙁

  6. That is so awesome! You should be proud of yourself for speaking up.

    One of the reasons I am so happy with our sons' daycare is the quality of the food they serve. They have two kitchens (the daycare is located in 6 old houses on a college campus)where the housekeeper prepares a large morning and afternoon snack every day for the kids. They also prepare a fun healthy snack for birthdays that they will put a candle in for the birthday kid. Parents bring the lunches. Snacks are never pre-packaged and are always made from scratch. Kids all sit at a table family-style for snacks/lunch and use real plates and cutlery. There is one menu for 6 m – 3 years and another menu for 3 years – 6 years. Today when I dropped the kids off morning snack for the little kids was eggs and cheese in a whole wheat tortilla and for the older kids oatmeal (slow-cooked) with applesauce. My only real complaint about the school is that nothing is organic so I do send organic milk separately for my younger son (older doesn't do milk).

    My older son goes to K next year in public school and the food that our district serves might actually be worse then what you portray here. He will most certainly be getting a packed lunch from home.

  7. Congrats! While I hated the daycare food offerings, I never thought to suggest a survey. I may do that in the future… my son is now in a daycare (4th since born) where we pack the lunches – I love it! Though they still provide the morning and afternoon snacks. 🙁 But we are expecting again, and while my son will be headed off to public-school-land in the fall, we'll be starting over with an infant again 🙂 And going through all this again.

    When my son was an infant and eating real food, I brought in food. Then thye got to the point where they politely told me I didn't need to do that – they could bring over lunch from the main building (<18 monthes were in a seperate building). No! I don't want him eating all that processed crap! But other did – they were happy to have (any) food provided for them.

  8. I would like to know what daycare you go to (I understand that you probably don't want to broadcast it across your blog). I know we are not in the same city, however I used a major chain child care facility for my first child, and the lunches and and attitude of the director seems very close to what we experienced. I feel like I could have written your experiences… Of course there was no way our director would have allowed outside food with us because my child did not have a medical reason. I hope the other parents respond and you can make a difference in the food they serve.

  9. Ohhhhh I'm on this one this week as well. Our DC usually has a pretty good, nutritionally sound menu for breakfast, lunch and snack. One day this week, however, I walked in to pick up my 2.5 y.o. and they had served them MINI MARSHMALLOWS for their late snack. I and the other mom who was there told the teachers RIGHT THEN that if that's what the snack is, then our kids don't get that snack, and I also spoke with the director, who was very receptive and assured me that it was a one-time thing. I understand that sometimes, kids just don't eat what we want them to, but come ON. Even pretzels have more nutritional value than marshmallows. I'm watching them like a hawk, and I want to thank you for your diligence too 🙂

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