You’ve heard the numbers: 30 percent of American kids between the ages of 2 and 5 are either overweight or obese. Overweight children and adolescents suffer disproportionately from diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea. Further, overweight youth have an estimated 70–80 percent chance of becoming obese adults.
That said, a new report from IATP highlights an emerging opportunity to bend the curve on early childhood obesity and nutrition. The years before children go to school are a critical time to influence kids’ lifelong eating habits. Children’s taste preferences are most actively developed between the ages of 3 and 5, and younger children are often more willing than older children to try new foods. That makes the early years, when many children are in child care, a golden opportunity for setting kids on the path toward healthy eating.
Farm to Child Care programs—which link young children in child care settings with locally grown, minimally processed foods and the farmers who grow them—have the potential to make a lasting impact on the diets of young children, reducing their risk of obesity and diet-related disease throughout life.
By stressing healthy food choices from nearby farms and integrating experiential learning opportunities—like curriculum innovations, garden-based education, interactions with farmers and other strategies—Farm to Child Care can improve the quality of food being served and help kids develop a healthy and informed relationship with their food.
IATP’s new research on Farm to Child Care looks at how food is currently provided in child care settings, innovative Farm to Child Care models that are being developed around the United States, and insights that can inform this emerging field. We invite you to review our research and tell us about your own experiences with healthy eating for young children. You will also hear more from us in the coming months as IATP ramps up our Farm to Child Care work. With the help of child Care providers, parents and farmers, we look forward to helping build a new Farm to Child Care movement in Minnesota and around the country.