"You had peas today?": A pilot study comparing a head start child-care center's menu with the actual food served

Sheila Fleischhacker, Katherine L. Cason, Cheryl Achterberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


This study explored the types of food served at a Head Start child-care center compared with that center's monthly menus. The study design was direct observation of the food provided by a Head Start center throughout the school day (Monday through Friday; 8:45 am to 2:30 pm) from January 4 to June 20, 2002, and analysis of this center's monthly menus. The numbers of meals directly observed for each type of meal service were: breakfast (n=96), lunch (n=95), and afternoon snack (n=78). These meals were compared with six monthly menus. Of the 269 meals and snacks compared, only three breakfast meals and an "ethnic day" matched the meals described on the provided menu. These findings illustrate that this center's menu was not consistently followed and therefore could not be used as an estimate of the preschoolers' intake or used as an educational or informational tool for parents/caregivers. Future research should verify how common these findings are among other Child and Adult Care Food Program child-care centers. Results may provide direction for development of the US Department of Agriculture's Child and Adult Care Food Program training for foodservice workers and educational materials focusing on menu development, appropriate substitutions, and the importance of using menus as a nutrition education tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-280
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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