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Given these statistics, the child care setting is obviously a pivotal context for establishing either healthy or unhealthy habits in young children. However, an observational study released in 2008 revealed deficiencies in the quality of the nutritional environment in licensed child care settings in Los Angeles County.xxv Two levers that can foster positive change in the healthy environments in child care settings include policy change and education for the child care workforce.
Recent Policy Environment
Recent political movements have focused attention on the importance of healthy habits in the early years and could move the needle toward higher quality nutritional and physical activity environments in child care settings. On the national stage, First Lady Michelle Obama has brought attention to the importance of nutrition and physical activity through her Let’s Move and Let’s Move Child Care Initiatives. In addition, with the recent reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant at the national level, there is increased recognition of the importance of nutrition and physical activity as seen in the following excerpts:
SEC. 658E (c) I (ii) “[States] may include requirements relating to nutrition, access to physical activity, or any other subject area determined by the State to be necessary to promote child development or to protect children’s health and safety.”
SEC. 658G. (b) Activities.—Funds reserved under subsection (a) shall be used to carry out no less than one of the following activities that will improve the quality of child care services provided in the State:
(1) Supporting the training and professional development of the child care workforce through activities such as those included under section 658E(c)(2)(G), in addition to— (A) offering training and professional development opportunities for child care providers that relate to the use of scientifically-based, developmentally-appropriate and age-appropriate strategies to promote the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of children, including those related to nutrition and physical activity, and offering specialized training for child care providers caring for those populations prioritized in section 658E(c)(2)(Q) [low-income], and children with disabilities;
(9) Supporting State or local efforts to develop or adopt high-quality program standards relating to health, mental health, nutrition, physical activity, and physical development.
Unfortunately, the language of “may” rather than “shall” is leaving much of this as optional to states to incorporate in their state plan at various levels. This will likely result in differences in nutrition and physical activity policies across states. More locally in California, AB 2084 (2010) created more stringent requirement for beverages served in child care settings and AB 290
Improving Health in Child Care Settings: 2016 8

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