Since 2014, Dakota County Public Health has hosted seven Learning about Nutrition through Activities (LANA) trainings, reaching 236 childcare and education professionals throughout the county. After the training, Dakota County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) staff help with:
- Developing healthy meal and snack menus
- Understanding healthy food guidelines
- Starting family-style meal service
- Implementing classroom nutrition curriculum and parent engagement strategies
Here is a sample of some of the best practices achieved at two of the centers:
Chef brings healthy touch to child care menus
About 165 infants and children in two Hastings childcare centers are eating healthier compared to a few years ago. This positive change happened because of efforts from the center’s director, assistance from a professional chef, and training and support through SHIP.
In 2014, staff from the Hastings Child Development Center and Robin’s Nest Daycare participated in LANA, a program that focuses on ways to include eight nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables into meals and activities. Dakota County SHIP sponsors the program.
A father from one of the childcare centers, who is also a chef, assisted both of the centers. He helped with preparing food, transitioning from canned fruits and vegetables to fresh and frozen options, and reducing the amount of added sugar and sodium. Now, the centers puree fresh fruits and vegetables in-house for infants, created a vegetable garden for school-age children. They also continue to engage families through newsletter communications. The newsletter highlights how parents can use ideas from the LANA program in the meals they make at home.
Introducing children to healthy tastes
Pathways to Play Learning Center in South St. Paul also started the LANA program curriculum. The center introduced more than 80 infants and young children to new fruit and vegetables by offering taste-testing. They did this before including the new produce in lunch menus.
New fruits and vegetables were introduced to children with the help of vegetarian puppet LANA the iguana. The center has also offered age-appropriate cooking lessons for children. One child was so enthusiastic about the new fruit he had recently tried — apricots — that he asked his mom to purchase some. The delicious fruits are now a regular item on the family shopping list.