Nutrition addresses the nutrients and substances in food which provide diets to the children. An assessment determines the basic stage and proper nutrition for each individual child. Regular communication between families and staff helps to ensure that nutritional needs are met both in the program and at home. Serving a proper diet composed of a variety of foods, not only promotes healthy choices, but also helps children to broaden their food preferences.
Providing a nutritious meal to children is a fundamental Head Start service. We work with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to ensure all center-based children receive one-half to two-thirds of their daily nutritional needs.
Head Start focuses on each child's basic needs including the healthy behaviors and practices that can prevent illness and enhance a child's lifelong well-being. Head Start believes optimum nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits contribute to a healthy start for children and help prepare them for learning. The goal of nutrition education is to increase awareness of the importance of wellness and promote the development of healthy eating habits in early childhood. This will aid in preventing future medical problems associated with poor nutrition. Each day, children eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack that make significant contributions to their dietary needs. Foods served are limited in fat, sugar and salt, incorporating the recently revised USDA Food Pyramid into meal preparation.
In the classroom, the teaching staff provides opportunities for children to learn about food and nutrition. The children participate in food preparation and cooking experiences that incorporate mathematical concepts, scientific principles, social studies and pre-reading/language exposure activities.
In an effort to prevent childhood obesity CSP Head Start has collaborated with researchers at the University of Alabama and community members in Sumter and Greene Counties, located in Alabama's rural Black Belt Region, to create the Home Sweet Home Project to help families with mindful eating. Through evidence-based interventions tailored to the community’s needs, the Home Sweet Home team hopes to address obesity by working with multiple generations in each family. During the program, families with young children will take part in three learning-in-action group dinners. They will learn to prepare healthy meals with locally-available foods, practice mindful eating, and take part in games that will help them to develop healthier habits.
Parents receive nutrition education and training as it relates to planning nutritious meals, budgeting and child nutrition. Parents of children with high-risk conditions are linked with health care professionals and may be counseled by the Nutrition Coordinator and Family Health Case Manager regarding the specific needs of their child.