Food Program Participation Influences Nutrition Practices in Early Care and Education Settings

Bethany D. Williams, Susan B. Sisson, Irene O. Padasas, Dipti A. Dev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine differences by Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) participation on nutrition requirements and best practices and barriers to implementing both in early care and education programs (ECEs) stratified by context (centers vs home-based ECEs). Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting: Three-thousand and fourteen licensed Nebraska ECEs in 2017. Participants: One-thousand three hundred forty-five ECEs. Main Outcome Measure(s): Director-reported nutrition practices in classrooms serving children aged 2-5 years (8 requirements for foods served, 5 best practices for foods served, and 14 best practices for mealtime behaviors). Analysis: Chi-square analysis adjusted for multiple comparisons. Results: Of the sample, 86.8% participated in CACFP, 21.7% were center-based, and 78.3% were home-based. Overall, CACFP participation was related to the higher implementation of CACFP requirements for foods served (P < 0.004 for all) and receiving professional development on nutrition (P < 0.012). In home-based ECEs only, CACFP participation was related to a higher prevalence of serving meals family-style (P = 0.002); however, these practices had low implementation overall. Conclusion and Implications: Findings suggest strengthening of requirements to include staff mealtime behaviors beyond service of healthful foods. Improving CACFP enrollment and including CACFP standards in state licensing requirements may be key strategies for improving nutrition practices in ECEs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-308
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Child and Adult Care Food Program
  • child care
  • nutrition
  • policies
  • practices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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