Date of Conferral
Patrcia N. Anderson
Nearly 70% of preschool children in the United States are enrolled in child care facilities. This means that they eat many meals away from their homes. Despite government support for childhood nutrition through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), research that measures the nutritional value of meals served in child care facilities has been lacking. The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine if there are differences in the calories and nutritional value of lunch meals offered to preschool children in facilities that participate in CACFP and in facilities that do not participate in CACFP. Ajzen's theory of planned behavior formed the theoretical foundation for this study. Two research questions addressed the nutrient and caloric content of lunches served in CACFP and non-CACFP facilities. An ex post facto quasi experimental design was used to compare 598 meals from existing monthly menus from a random sample of 30 child care facilities located in a state in the Southwestern United States. Using a MANOVA test, significantly greater amounts of proteins, fats, and calories were found in meals served by non-CACFP facilities. A comparison of actual menu items suggested that greater numbers of fatty foods were present in menus served at non-CACFP facilities. These results support literature that found childhood illnesses, like obesity and malnutrition, may stem from high-calorie meals that lack adequate nutrients. This study may contribute to positive social change by supporting nutrition oversight, such as that provided by the CACFP program; encouraging tighter state and local nutritional guidelines in child care; and focusing attention on the importance of everyday nutrition for all children attending child care facilities.