Evaluation of Planned Menus in Saskatchewan Childcare Centres that Participated in the Healthy Start/Départ Santé Program
Abobakar, Lila M 1986-
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Recent statistics estimate that close to one-third (29.8%) of Canadian preschoolers (ages 2-5 years) are overweight or obese. Over half (52%) of Canadian children attend childcare centres regularly, thus these facilities play an important role in shaping the eating habits of a large proportion of young children. To date, little is known about the quality of food served in Canadian childcare centres. Researchers suggest that childcare centre environments provide an opportunity to implement community-based intervention programs aimed at reducing childhood obesity. Furthermore, healthy dietary habits established in childhood can be maintained into adulthood. However, research shows that some centres are not providing children with sufficient food from each group to meet their daily nutrient requirements. In addition, there has been no research to date assessing the accuracy of menus in Canadian childcare centres in comparison to the actual food served. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the food menus of childcare centres in Saskatchewan and assess the impact of the Healthy Start/Départ Santé (HS/DS) intervention program on improving the menu planning practices and improving the congruence between planned menus and actual food served in the participating centres. HS/DS is a bilingual non-profit population health intervention initiative. It was developed in Saskatchewan and later expanded to New Brunswick with the aim of establishing healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity levels in three to five-year-old children in early learning environments. The HS/DS intervention program was implemented in over 180 childcare centres and pre-kindergartens in Saskatchewan between 2013 and 2016. Overall, 39 licensed childcare centres were selected through a cluster randomized control trial to evaluate the impact of the HS/DS intervention. The food menus of these centres were analyzed and compared to the Saskatchewan Childcare Nutrition Guidelines (SNGN). The congruence between the planned menus and the actual food served was also assessed by comparing the food and beverages items that were served at lunch during two consecutive days with the food and drink items listed on the menus. Descriptive analysis and non-parametric tests were performed. The results of our study indicated that only two centres met all of the SCNG recommendations throughout their cycle menus, including the guidelines for breakfast, lunch, snacks, milk, juice, and processed food (food to limit). Furthermore, in the comparisons of pre and post intervention menus, there were trends of improvement in the adherence to the breakfast, lunch, and processed food limitation guidelines among the intervention centres. However, these improvements were not statistically significant. Conversely, there were no improvements in guideline adherence in control or usual practice centres, apart from processed food guidelines. The improvement in meeting the processed food guidelines was statistically significant (P-value = 0.035). There was also an increase in the percentage of adherence to the written menus among intervention centres. Results from this study show that the intervention had a positive impact on improving the adherence of the HS/DS participating centres to the SCNG guidelines and to the centres’ planned menus. Our findings may have implications for developing more effective strategies to improve menu planning practices in childcare centres.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeLeis, Anne; Henry, Carol; Engler-Stringer, Rachel; Paterson, Phyllis; Bally, Jill
Copyright DateJanuary 2018
Healthy Start/Départ Santé