Menu Planning for Success
Preparing and serving meals in child care centers involves some up-front planning. By carefully planning which foods you serve at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks from day-to-day and week-to-week, you can ensure a variety of healthy, nutritious, tasty meal options that the children at your facility will look forward to eating. This lesson presents strategies for optimizing the menu planning process in your child care center.
Family-Style Dining in Child Care Settings
Healthy lifestyle attitudes begin in the early years. As a food service worker, you play an important role in helping children develop healthy eating habits, from the menus you create to the dishes you serve. Children rely on you to offer healthy food choices and model healthy lifestyles. Understanding what to eat and how much to eat are important skills for young children to learn. Family-style dining offers the opportunity for children to learn how to choose healthy foods in age-appropriate portions, as well as the social skills used during dining.
Food Preparation & Presentation
Healthy eating involves a variety of foods from all five food groups in appropriate amounts. Eating in a healthy manner helps ensure adequate nutrition and proper growth for infants and children. As caregivers, it is a priority to offer children nutritious foods at mealtimes and for snacks. Doing so not only exemplifies what healthy eating looks like, but it also exposes children to new tastes, textures, and aromas, helps them see what accurate portion sizes look like, and teaches them to make healthful food selections. How food is prepared and presented can greatly influence the positive choices children make in the feeding process, thus contributing to a healthy lifestyle.
All food service programs require decisions on how much food and associated nonfood items should be purchased each time an order is placed and how much stock is appropriate to have on hand. These decisions are part of inventory management. Having enough supplies available on hand for meal preparation--but not too much--is a delicate balance to maintain. Having a system in place for accurate and controlled inventory management will help your facility save money and offer high-quality meals. Child care centers must document how many meals are served, what kinds of foods are prepared and served, which vendors are used to procure food and supplies, and what ingredients are needed to make weekly meals—this is part of what is tracked in inventory management.
Food Safety Part 1: Hygiene & Sanitation
Practicing good hygiene and sanitation in your child care kitchen is crucial to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. The Food and Drug Administration lists poor personal hygiene as one of five key factors implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks, along with food from unsafe sources, inadequate cooking, improper holding temperatures, and contaminated equipment. Poor personal hygiene of workers causes 25 to 40 percent of foodborne-related illness in this country. Children, especially young children, are at higher risk of experiencing serious health issues if they are exposed to foodborne pathogens. Therefore, knowing how to practice good hygiene and sanitation is an essential skill for anyone working in a child care kitchen environment. This unit will cover the principles of good personal hygiene and practices you can employ to have a properly cleaned and sanitized food preparation environment in your child care facility.
Food Safety Part 2: Temperature Control
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 million people get sick from foodborne-related diseases each year, with 128,000 of them needing hospitalization. Keeping food at a proper temperature is one of the most important things a food handler can do to prevent bacteria that cause foodborne illness from growing rapidly. Leaving certain foods out for a long time in certain temperatures creates conditions for bacteria to grow, sometimes to dangerous levels. Limiting how long foods spend in growth-promoting temperatures minimizes the risk of someone getting sick. This unit will cover which foods are most at risk for harboring pathogens, how to control time and temperature to minimize bacterial overgrowth, and the proper way to take the temperature of foods throughout the food preparation process.
Food Safety Part 3: Pathogens and Allergens
People often interchange the terms “cross-contamination” and “cross-contact.” They are very different. Cross-contamination affects the transfer of food pathogens (such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi), whereas cross-contact refers to the transfer of food allergens. Allergens only affect people who have sensitivities to them, whereas anyone can get sick if they eat food that has been contaminated with a pathogen. Understanding the steps for preventing both cross-contamination and cross-contact is useful for people who handle food in child care centers. Food service employees should know the major food allergens and also how to respond to an allergic reaction. This lesson will give you the background needed to differentiate between pathogens and allergens and how to reduce the risk of illness in your facility.