Healthy food available for day cares

Story by JOHANNA WISCHMANN

Helping Hands Inc. is a nonprofit organization that works with day care homes to provide a healthy and nutritional diet.

The program works with children under the age of 12 in day care homes. It strives to improve the day cares, mostly run by low-income families, to afford better quality meals for the children.

Helping Hands works with Child and Adult Care Food Program, known as CACFP. CACFP is a federal program that gives healthy snacks and meals to children and adults involved with day care programs.

According to the Helping Hands website, the program helps the caregiver have the funds to purchase better quality of food, such as milk, breads and meats.

It also reimburses homes for healthy meals given to the children, like a breakfast of fruit, vegetables or milk. To get reimbursed for a meal provided for children, a provider has to make a claim.

Day cares and providers can claim up to two main meals and two snacks per child per day.

Susan Ison, executive director at Helping Hands, said that when a provider follows the USDA nutritional guidelines, Helping Hands works with the Utah State Office of Education to receive reimbursement for food given to the day care children and a lot of times the provider’s children.

An estimated 98 percent of providers that Helping Hands supports are from low-income families, Ison said in an email. An estimated 75 percent are from different cultures and ethnicities and don’t speak English. To qualify the providers have to have proper licenses and they must be caring for at least one non-residential child.

Once enrolled, a provider must complete paperwork, including a daily record of the food that the children ate and which children ate what food. This paperwork is given to Helping Hands monthly.

To ensure that the funds provided to the caregivers are being used correctly and to help maintain a healthy, nutritional diet and a healthy environment, Ison said. Helping Hands staff makes an unannounced visit about two to three times a year.

Not only does Helping Hands help with financial situations, staff also offer training on sanitation and nutrition.

“We provide nutrition and care giving training both, in actual training classes at our office and in-home during home visits,” Ison said.

“The biggest help we could receive is letting people know that this program is available to all day care providers, both those who are legally licensed for day care and those caring only for related children,” she said.

Helping Hands has a full menu available with healthy options for families and providers to choose from, like celery sticks, strawberries and peanut butter.

It also keeps information accessible to families by keeping recipes readily available for everybody interested in a healthier diet.

According to the website, Helping Hands also provides more information for providers by using the CACFP site that allows plenty of information and tools to make the use of the nonprofit very easy. For example there is a “food tracker” available for providers to use.

“In the current economic environment, it is more and more difficult to afford good, quality, healthful foods for our children,” Ison said in an email. “I, personally, would not have my child in a day care – whether in a residential day care home, or a day care center – that was not participating on the food program. I feel it is that important!”

Helping Hands has staff available for contact through email or telephone.

To  join Helping Hands fill out a form of information online or visit the location on 2964 W 4700 S, Suite 111 in West Valley City.