How West Virginia Successfully Used the Food Program (CACFP)

In June 2011, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), Office of Child Nutrition adapted Delaware’s CACFP nutrition standards. These standards were instituted in more than 500 licensed child care centers across the state.

Within 1–2 years, family day care homes were required to follow the standards. These standards require low-fat dairy for children 2 years and older, fruits and vegetables every day, whole grains and lean meats. They do not allow sugary beverages, high-sugar grains or processed meats.

Initiative Partnerships and Resources

West Virginia has one of the most progressive standards for competitive foods in schools. The state passed and implemented a strong nutrition policy in the school lunch program, and a child nutrition team felt it was critical to have consistent messages across all federal programs. The WVDE learned of the Delaware initiative and adapted their standards and materials, which they re-branded with Delaware’s permission.

In June 2010, WVDE introduced the child care nutrition standards with a one-year implementation phase using state administrative expense funds. Through a collaboration with the Department of Public Health, WVDE received additional funds through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant “Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW)”, which provided the initiative with more resources than originally planned. A resource website for early care and education (ECE) providers was developed which included the Leap of Taste, West Virginia Child Care Nutrition Standards resource book and a window sticker indicating participation in the program, as well as parent resources. WVDE also worked with the CPPW team to add a physical activity component.

WVDE has trained their licensing specialists to monitor implementation of the child care nutrition standards to help support the initiative. While WVDE is holding the centers accountable for the standards, they cannot withhold funds.

The CACFP initiative has led to other collaborations. For example, West Virginia CACFP staff is working with the state child care licensing office to implement Head Start’s I Am Moving, I Am Learning program.

Provider Trainings and Support

In 2009, West Virginia adopted the standards and then trained child care providers across the state from June 2010 to June 2011 using the Leap of Taste book. In addition to the trainings, WVDE funded four culinary institutes to teach cooking classes on scratch cooking, menu planning and kitchen efficiencies (such as deboning a chicken). The culinary institutes used CACFP approved menus.

The state provides a statewide training every 2 years with regional trainings in between. In 2011, the regional trainings focused on the website, family materials and guidelines. Over the course of two years, the WVDE, Office of Child Nutrition spent approximately $243,000 to develop and implement materials as well as develop the licensing language.

Lessons Learned

  • Use clear language in all materials developed for use as guidance.
  • Provide tools to implement standards. Appealing materials are important, and paying for a quality marketer is worth the expense.
  • Work with procurement to ensure products exist and are available to meet the standards.
  • Ensure that training is available both in person and by video to address staff turnover or staff who cannot attend the in-person trainings. Staff turnover and training of new staff were barriers in West Virginia.
  • Be flexible with partnerships. Not all partnerships work out as planned.