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Profs. Kalich and Dunn Help Child Care Centers Eat Healthy

Health Science professors Karrie Kalich (l) and Becky Dunn
Health Science professors Karrie Kalich (l) and Becky Dunn

The NH Department of Health & Human Services awarded Health Science professors Karrie Kalich and Becky Dunn $99,300 last March for their “Healthy Eating and Sodium Reduction Project.” The grant enabled them to recruit health consultants, child care centers, and school administrative units (SAUs) that agreed to participate in the project. Several Health Science graduates were hired as the consultants, who helped the schools complete the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC) with additional questions related to sodium reduction practices. Then the consultants and child care centers worked together to adopt nutrition policies and/or practices to reduce the amount of sodium the children were eating and improve their health.

Most adults realize that they should limit their sodium intake, but why should children care about it? “Sodium is of course connected to high blood pressure,” explained Dr. Kalich. “However, it also serves as a marker for the nutritional value of the food—higher sodium foods tend to be highly processed and therefore less nutritious/less nutrient dense. If schools/child care centers are focused on reducing sodium in their meals, it’s likely that they’ll move towards more whole, cooked-from-scratch foods and away from the highly processed convenience foods that are almost always loaded with sodium.”

Child care centers received $1000 mini grants, and school districts received $1,500. A 1.5-hour online sodium reduction training program called “Shake It Down” will be offered free-of-charge to school food service workers for continuing education credits.

Drs. Kalich and Dunn completed the project at the end of June. “The initiative was successful in bringing greater attention to the importance of nutrition and awareness of current practices,” Dr. Kalich reported. “The work also resulted in the adoption of policies, practices, and procedures that resulted in healthier food choices for the children.”

The Keene Sentinel did an article on the effect of the program at Antrim’s Blossoms Early Learning Center.

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