According to Nader, et al. in Pediatrics magazine, the preschool years are critical for obesity prevention. Dietary preferences are established at this age, and many children spend several hours in childcare each week.
Therefore, as a provider, it is crucial for you to monitor food intake and meal patterns, not only to report to the parents but to ensure you are meeting state and federal requirements for nutrition.
Manually tracking the eating habits of multiple small children plus planning meals and purchasing ingredients is a burdensome task that’s rife with error. Using a meal tracking application such as that provided with EZChildTrack childcare management software will streamline meal tracking and help you save time and money.
Overview of the EZChildTrack meal tracking module
EZChildTrack has a meal tracking module integrated into the childcare management solution to provide comprehensive meal tracking capabilities. It keeps track of food program information needed for childcare providers to meet the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Also, you receive enhanced features for detailed tracking of nutrition for individual food items and consumers.
Along with tracking nutrition, you can use the meal-tracking module to monitor family eligibility for free and reduced lunch and generate monthly reimbursement reports. The module provides an array of beneficial features.
- Definition of food items.
- Menu planning for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
- Schedule meal serving.
- The ability to track meals by individual or batch mode and establish meal counts.
- Produce weekly or monthly menus.
- Generate monthly meal count reports.
- Perform a nutritional analysis by child.
How well their child eats is of extreme importance to parents, and nutritional meal provision is high on the list of needs when they search for quality childcare.
Introduction to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
The Food and Nutrition Service office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Its mission is to provide children and families with better access to food and a more healthful diet through the food assistance program.
The CACFP provides nutrition education and plans nutritious meals and snacks for eligible children enrolled for care at participating childcare centers. Afterschool care programs may also participate.
To be eligible, a child must be 12 years old or younger, or the children of migrant workers, or mentally/physically disabled at any age, or 18 years old and under while participating in an approved temporary emergency shelter and at-risk afterschool programs.
A childcare center is eligible to participate by meeting the requirements of the program.
- Provide non-residential care services.
- Be licensed and approved by the federal, state, or local authority or demonstrate compliance with standards.
- It can be public, non-profit or for-profit.
- Privately owned for-profit care centers must have at least 25% of enrolled children in care that are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, or they must receive benefits from Title XX of the Social Security Act, plus receive compensation from funds granted to the states under Title XX.
Dealing with eligibility requirements and reimbursement payments from government programs typically requires additional documentation and record-keeping administration.
The benefits of EZChildTrack’s meal tracking module
EZChildTrack’s meal tracking module introduces automation and flexibility into your meal program. Instead of tracking everything manually on paper forms, your meal plans, menus, and child nutrition tracking are kept in a centralized database where the data can be used to generate menus, reports, and special dietary information.
For example, you can use the provided interface to access a complete list of food items and their nutritional values from the USDA database. With this information, you can quickly build multiple menus and schedule meals, following recommended meal patterns.
After meals, you can track each meal consumed as well as the food items consumed by each child.
With the increase of food allergies among children, automated meal tracking can help you meet special dietary restrictions for individual children without disrupting meal planning and serving. If you have children from different cultures attending your childcare facility, you can introduce everyone to new foods alongside familiar ones to provide variety and help children feel at home.
Food and supply budgeting
When you can monitor consumption closely, you have a ready source of data to inform your meal budget. You will know which foods are at the highest risk of waste and which foods tend to be the most popular.
Meal counts and menu generation provides a list of needed supplies for replenishment purposes and to ensure you have all the proper ingredients available for fixing the meal. As a childcare provider, you understand that some days a child won’t eat much and others may go on a food jag. Meal tracking software keeps you prepared without running short or creating more waste than necessary.
EZChildTrack childcare management software makes it easy to generate meal counts for subsidies and to accept agency payments through the payment module. Each family’s record is updated with reimbursement amounts for billing and tax purposes.
Save time and money
Automating menu planning and nutritional analysis along with meal counts can reduce or eliminate the time you spend administrating your meal program. Manually creating and tracking menus overall and how each child eats every day can take hours of time that would be better spent growing your business and taking care of the myriad of other responsibilities you have.
Your staff will appreciate the elimination of a tedious task that was performed while simultaneously keeping track of the children themselves. When it comes time to renew your license and eligibility for various programs, you can quickly generate the appropriate reports to support your claims.
Childhood obesity, food-related allergies and illnesses, plus the natural variation in appetites create a challenging environment in which to provide meals for large groups of children. As nutritional guidelines change, an automated meal system captures the changes quickly. Your food budget is reduced, and your supply lists are more accurate than ever before.
EZChildTrack childcare management software with an integrated meal-tracking module can help you remain in compliance and maintain eligibility for reimbursements and special programs. With the reduced labor and easier menu planning and tracking, you can offer more for your enrollees and differentiate your childcare center from your competitors.