ELV Partners with Revolution Foods to Bring Nutritious Meals to Preschoolers

7/8/2011

In 2010, ELV secured grant funding from the Colorado Health Foundation to pilot a healthy foods program for the Alliances. This grant supports the development of a groundbreaking new food service program for Alliances to provide to their Affiliates. This funding provides support for a three year program to develop an out-sourced healthy food service model for the ECE industry.

Colorado’s childhood obesity rate rises from fourth or fifth least obese to 23rd in two years.  The National Survey of Children’s Health found that childhood obesity in Colorado increased 23 percent between 2003 and 2007 – the second-fastest rate of increase in the nation behind Nevada.

The estimated cost of obesity-related health care in 2009 was $147 billion. If the rate of obesity continues to increase unchecked, those costs will be harder to contain.  “It’s one reason why local and national foundations have focused so much of their attention – and their resources – on addressing the challenges of childhood obesity,” reports Diane Carman from EdNewsColorado.org,  Feb. 11, 2011.

Early Learning Ventures (ELV), a non-profit quality early childhood education organization, developed the Early Learning Ventures “Alliance” model as an innovative, community-based partnership approach, for small, independent child care providers to work together and deliver services in a more streamlined and efficient way. By creating a centralized operations hub for these small businesses, Alliances can achieve economies of scale to efficiently support the broad delivery of high-quality services.  Alliances increase the capacity and quality of early care and education (ECE) providers that serve a high number of low-income, TANF-eligible families.  Utilization of these services saves providers a significant amount of time and money.  Affiliate child care providers are then required to reinvest these reclaimed revenues and time savings back into their ECE programs through quality improvement initiatives such as an investment in nutritious meal options, curriculum, or staff benefits.

In 2010, ELV secured grant funding from the Colorado Health Foundation to pilot a healthy foods program for the Alliances.  This grant supports the development of a groundbreaking new food service program for Alliances to provide to their Affiliates.  This funding provides support for a three year program to develop an out-sourced healthy food service model for the ECE industry.  During this time, healthy meals and snacks will be provided to over 3,500 children by Revolution Foods.

Revolution Foods has a proven track record of delivering tasty and healthy meals and nutrition education to K-12 schools and programs across the country.  In planning menus, Revolution Foods take into account USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) requirements for meals with respect to calories, fat, saturated fat, and other nutrients.

Ingredient standards: • NO rBST or hormones in milk. • NO fried food. Food is prepared fresh daily; do not serve fried, unhealthily processed, or microwaved food. Do not even allow “flash-fried” products in meals.   • NO high fructose corn syrup, ever.  • NO artificial trans fats, ever.  • NO artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners.  • All ingredients meet Whole Foods Market’s stringent quality standards.

Nutrition standards:  • Only offer non-flavored milk, and all milk for children is 1% or nonfat.  • Strive to offer foods with little or no added sugar.  • Meals on average contain no more than 30% of their calories from total fat and no more than 10% of calories from saturated fats.  • All baked goods (tortillas, breads, breakfast pastries) contain whole grains.  • Offer a variety of vegetables, including dark green and orange vegetables, throughout the week.  • Do not serve juice with our breakfasts or lunches.  • Offer a variety of fresh fruits over the course of a week, and do not serve canned fruit.  • Offer fresh salads every day.  •Feature low-fat dairy products, in meals.

Children’s Outreach Project (COP), an ELV Alliance @ Bal Swan affiliate, has been a proud member of the HOP program since August, 2010.  COP is licensed for 104 children, ages 3-6, in Denver, Co.  COP serves 76% low-income families and provides speech and occupational therapy as well as social and emotional supports.

“COP is thrilled to work with Revolution Foods. We couldn’t have done it on own,” says Stephanie Baer, COP Executive Director. “We needed the HOP grant.  ELV was critical in implementing this approach to healthy, nutritious meals in our classroom.”  Prior to HOP, COP tried several food vendors, but did not find the quality of food they were looking for in a company.  They also tried in-house cooking, but soon discovered their quality of food was declining due to financial constraints.

Parents feel really good about exposure to the healthy food at school too.  “The children sit longer, eat more varieties of food, and try more new things,” notes lead teacher, Amy Coleman, of her classroom of four-year olds.  Baer notes her five year old daughter graduated from the program this year and now has a culture of expectation to try new things. “She takes that approach home with her,” remarks Baer.

The meals are mostly served family-style with lunch menus consisting of beef, baked ziti, kiwis, corn, and milk or all-natural honey-glazed chicken with roasted potatoes and garlic braised collard greens.  One of the children’s favorite pasta dishes is Alfredo with white beans,” notes Melanie Padilla, food coordinator for COP.

Fresh fruit is served with every meal.  “We love kiwis!” the children exclaim.  “Kiwis make for a great learning tool,” notes Baer.  “The children use descriptor words like “sour,” “fuzzy,” “green” and “juicy.”
“The children are proud to tell parents they ate their multi-colored vegetables.  Reward stickers are provided for new foods that describe what is in the food,” explains Padilla.  “It usually works to get them to try the food.  They love broccoli now.”

Coleman teaches a primarily Spanish speaking class and notes the children loved the whole grain tamales, quesadillas, and enchiladas.  “They were excited because they have the same foods at home.”
“I always hope there is some leftover in the kitchen,” says Coleman.  No such luck today.  After second and third helpings, the children have finished every last bite.

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