For nearly 20 years, the Early Childhood Education Centers at College of the Canyons have utilized a federally funded program to help feed the children of underprivileged families.
Serving more than 3.2 million children nationwide, the United States Department of Agriculture Child and Adult Care Food Program reimburses participating centers at free, reduced-price, or paid rates for meals served to enrolled children that are in need.
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Qualifying families are based on household size and income.
“This is a nutrition program that is a available to all childcare centers, all adult centers like rest homes and school districts, and it allows us to subsidize the nutrition that we provide for the children,” said Diane Stewart, dean of the college’s Early Childhood Education programs.
COC is currently home to three childhood centers: the Valencia campus combines infant/toddler and preschool programs into one facility, and the Canyon Country campus has its own preschool center. All of the children enrolled at Stewart’s centers– including those benefitted by the Food Program – are served three meals per day.
According to Stewart, milk and fruit is offered in the morning, often including cereal, oatmeal or waffles. During lunch, children may be greeted with meatloaf and green beans, along with a starch of some kind and milk. At the afternoon snack, children will munch on cheese, crackers and fruit.
“It needs to be two groups, like a grain and a protein,” said Stewart. “We have protein in every meal.”
The college’s Early Childhood Education Program adheres to very strict nutritional and quantity requirements, all intended to provide a health-conscious diet to the youngsters. The children can even take part in the meal presentation.
“Because we are a teaching demonstration school, often the children may be involved with some of the preparation and certainly they are involved at the table with serving and the socialization. It’s all part of the nutrition program.”
Of the 165 children enrolled at the college’s centers, approximately 50 receive their meals for free. Eight receive them at a reduced rate.
While Stewart’s centers provide the meals, the government then reimburses the college for the children that qualify for the USDA program.
“It’s purely for the children,” said Stewart.