Serving Meals & Snacks
Providing nutritious food and promoting good eating habits are important parts of any child care program. Meal times offer children the opportunity to socialize, try new food, and build on many learning skills. Incorporating ideas and themes from your curriculum into meal times is a great way to involve children, and makes for a fun time all around. Here are some things to think about when serving meals and snacks:
- Always have children wash hands before and after snacks and meals.
Observe safe food preparation and handling practices.
- Include items from the major food groups: vegetables and fruits, cereals and breads, milk products and milk equivalents, and meat and meat substitutes.
- Allow enough time for snacks and meals so that children don’t feel rushed.
- Serve snacks and meals at regularly scheduled times.
- Serve a variety of textures, colors, and temperatures of food.
- Have the children take part in food preparation, which builds skills in many areas such as math, science, language, and social studies.
- Let children take part in serving the food (e.g., passing around a basket of crackers, or carrying a tray of fruit to a table).
- Make meal and snack times a pleasant experience where children and adults eat together and share conversation as well as food.
- Serve food from a diversity of cultures, especially those of children in the program.
- Serve small portions, particularly if it’s a new or unfamiliar food.
For infants, talk to parents about daily feeding schedules, formula or breast milk preparation, and when and how to introduce solid food.
- Talk to parents about any allergies or special diets their children may have. It’s helpful to keep a list posted in the eating area for staff reference. Some allergic reactions can be very severe, so attentiveness is important.
- To prevent choking, do not serve popcorn, nuts, raisins, grapes, raw carrots, or hot dogs (unless cut up into half-inch pieces) to children under the age of five.
- Do not use an excess of sugar or salt when preparing any food.
- Post your snack and meal menus on your program’s main bulletin board and website.
USDA Food Program: The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides federal funds to nonresidential child and adult care facilities to serve nutritious meals and snacks. The goal of the CACFP is to improve and maintain the health and nutritional status of children and adults in care while promoting the development of good eating habits.