Underlying Theory and Evidence
Strategies Used: The Head Start Central Kitchen Initiative utilizes the following evidence-based strategies for healthy eating:
- Changing Access and Availability to Favor Healthy Foods and Beverages:
The Central Kitchen changes the availability of healthy foods to Head Start children by providing lunches that are both healthy and appetizing. The impetus for starting the Central Kitchen was how unappetizing meals were considered to be prior to 1) the creation of the Central Kitchen and 2) SLCAP Head Start’s adoption of its own best practices for healthy eating that exceeded CACFP nutrition guidelines.
- Comprehensive Nutrition Programs in a Single Setting:
The Head Start Central Kitchen Initiative provides a comprehensive approach to healthy eating and can serve as a model for various types of food service institutions in serving high-quality, nutritious meals to preschool-age children. Nutrition-related education for SLCAP Head Start staff, monthly classroom cooking activities for children, and monthly newsletters for parents all work to improve knowledge, attitudes, and interpersonal skills for healthy eating. Additionally, the Central Kitchen’s collaborations with CACFP and other partners result in high-quality, nutritious meals that support healthy eating.
- Increase Purchasing and Use of Foods from Local Farms:
The food service director estimates that 75% of food purchased for the meals is from local farms. Most of this locally grown food comes from Utah and states nearby, Idaho and Colorado.
- School Nutrition Programs to Promote Healthy Eating:
Central Kitchen planners drew upon the academic literature to include family-style meals and positive modeling of eating healthy foods by adults to increase the likelihood that children in the program would adopt healthier eating habits. They also knew that successful introduction of a new food to children would require serving it several times before a child would like it.
- Social Support for Healthy Eating:
The Head Start Central Kitchen Initiative utilizes the support of families and parents through parent volunteers in the classroom who model healthy eating and by teaching parents how to prepare healthier foods through cooking classes. Teachers also serve as role models for healthy eating and discuss with children when new foods are served. Family-style eating builds interpersonal skills and creates a supportive environment for healthy eating.