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UCCE Alameda finds policy changes at fourteen preschool sites

The Issue

Obesity affects at least 17% of children and adolescents and almost 36 % of adults in the United States. Data from 2,606 teens randomly selected from the 2005-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed nearly 1% had diabetes and almost 20% had pre-diabetes. Eating behaviors of young children can impact brain development and are linked to future food attitudes and health. Early Childhood centers need support to develop and adopt policies to promote healthy nutrition and lifestyle practices. Policy development starts with teachers, staff, and administrators who are expected to make a positive change in the environment and model healthy nutrition and lifestyle practices.

What Has ANR Done?

UCCE partnered with Alameda County Public Health Department, Nutrition Services in 2014 to develop nutrition and wellness policies and standards. Facilities assessments were conducted at 14 sites, and a Food Behavior Checklist was collected from 32 teachers and 13 teacher’s aides serving 1,072 preschoolers. Teachers and staff participated in a year-long wellness policy development and approval process. They also received education about reducing sugar, reading food labels, making water more available to the children, offering healthy snacks, using fruit and vegetable tastings as snacks, making healthy eating fun, and integrating nutrition and physical activity into classrooms. Policies were in place at 12 sites during the 2015/16 school year, and a short-term follow-up assessment was conducted.

The Payoff

Positive policy changes seen at 13 sites

Thirteen of the 14 sites reported two or more positive healthy changes, with ten schools reporting more than five healthy changes as a result of the policies. Specifically, three or more schools improved healthy food choices by reducing the use of processed meats, increasing the offerings of fruits and vegetables offered each week, and decreasing the amount of juice served each day. Seven schools began to offer culturally relevant food, and one school was able to bring a farmers market to the school. Eleven sites implemented a policy change by providing guidelines to encourage parents to provide non-food contributions for school celebrations. In addition to increasing healthy foods and changing school guidelines, the schools also modeled healthy eating practices such as serving child-sized portions, allowing children to serve themselves, and not requiring them to eat all of the food on their plates. Three sites talked with the students about nutrition and one provided nutrition information to parents. Eight schools also increased the emphasis on physical activity by promoting physical activity at school and home, while two schools increased staff training on nutrition and physical activity. Preschool staff promoted policy change by modeling healthy nutrition practices at the preschool sites.

Clientele Testimonial

“The children need to see adults eating healthy – we eat with them”.- Participating Teacher


Supporting Unit: Alameda County

MaryAnn Lagura, Program Manager