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J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Feb;108(2):340-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.09.006.

About feeding children: mealtimes in child-care centers in four western states.

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University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas, NV 89123, USA.


This study was conducted to describe mealtimes and explore routines, policies, and training in child-care centers. Following an intensive review of mealtimes, staff and director questionnaires were created. Using a stratified random sampling protocol and following the Tailored Design Method, directors and staff from licensed child-care centers from California, Colorado, Idaho, and Nevada were surveyed. Center and staff characteristics were compared among the four states and three census areas using analysis of variance and chi(2) analyses, as appropriate. To adjust for multiple comparisons, a stringent P value of <0.001 was used for post hoc comparisons. Responses were received from 568 centers (representing 1,190 staff and 464 directors). Mealtimes generally occurred in the classroom, where an adult sat at the table with the children, served some food, poured the drinks, and ate some of the center-provided food. Less than half of centers reported using "family-style" service, although this style allows children the opportunity to self-serve food. Staff received substantially less training on feeding children (42%) than on nutrition (68%) and child development (95%). These findings bring focus to the need to educate child-care staff and directors about the impact of mealtime environments on child health and development.

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