In recent years, the topic of childhood nutrition has gained widespread interest. Meanwhile, the rise of food allergies, with two students in each classroom having an identified food allergy, have boosted calls for custom daycare menus.
Because of heightened awareness about nutrition, many families have also adopted gluten-free, dairy-free, or plant-based diets. Between complying with the USDA’s CACFP meal requirements and meeting the evolving needs of families, childcare directors have their hands full. If this sounds like what you face on a weekly basis, take heart! Prime Child Care Software offers comprehensive meal management to take the task off your hands. With our custom meal planning solution, parents can choose what their kids eat. Not sure if you should offer custom meal plans? If so, check out the 10 benefits of doing so!
1. It Keeps Kids Safe
As childcare workers, safety is always top-of-mind. With allergies, autoimmune diseases, and food intolerances on the rise, it’s imperative to know what each child is eating. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team, the number of people with food allergies in America has doubled in each of the last few decades, with 32 million people having at least one food allergy. That figure includes six million children. Prime Child Care’s meal management feature minimizes the risk of allergic reactions by giving parents and teachers realtime access to menu and student health information data.
2. It Keeps Kids Engaged
Hungry kids have a hard time focusing on school. Research from Feeding America suggests that kids not only struggle to learn without ample nutrition, but they are also at risk of developing language, motor skill, and behavioral impairments. In addition, if you serve food that students can’t or won’t eat, they’re less likely to absorb classroom instruction. Harvard researchers found that what kids eat directly affects the structure and function of their brains and, ultimately, their moods. Since your digesitve tract houses the majority of the serotonin in your body, a happy tummy promotes positive moods. So, provide options for families in order to promote better mental and physical health.
3. It Simplifies Oversight
In the interest of keeping kids healthy, childcare workers need options. It’s simply not feasible for teachers to flip through office files every time a child eats lunch. With Prime Child Care, teachers can access meal plans from their phones. It’s easy to do a quick check to ensure that each student receives the correct meal. And, parents can log in to choose what their kids eat. Prime Child Care also allows teachers to access digital dietary notes left behind by parents. This two-way communication reduces the need for parents to email teachers for information or send in supplemental foods.
4. It Reduces Anxiety
Mealtimes should be enjoyable for kids. It’s a chance to relax, interact with their peers, and eat foods they like. But for many kids, parents, and teachers, mealtime can be a source of anxiety. Some children become nervous when they see unfamiliar foods on their plates. Meanwhile, teachers worry about things like allergies, choking hazards, and parental expectations. As for parents, the main worry is whether their kids will get enough to eat and especially, of the right foods. With meal planning software, the anxiety dissipates, since everyone knows what to expect. Kids can select meals that appeal to them, and parents can choose the components of each type of meal. Teachers can also rest easy, knowing that children are eating exactly what their parents want them to. This fosters parent-teacher collaboration, where everyone is working together in the best interests of the child.
5. It Provides Payment Options
Prime Child Care Software determines the amount of each meal payment, whether it’s paid out-of-pocket or through CACFP. Parents can customize meals and select prices that fit their budget with drag-and-drop menu planning. Our software also automatically deducts the cost of each meal from the student’s account. And, parents can upload funds at any time. Many parents appreciate the ability to determine what they purchase, rather than paying a set fee for food their kids may not eat.
6. It Enhances Nutrition
While many childcare centers emphasize nutrition, not all of them follow CACFP guidelines for meal patterns. These recommendations made by the National Academy of Medicine include cost and practical considerations, as well as an emphasis on produce, whole grains, and low sugar and saturated fat content. Breakfast requires three required elements for a reimbursable meal, while lunch and dinner require five healthy ones. Special consideration is made for at-risk, after-school participants and for portion sizes in kids ages 13-18. In addition, the standards align with that of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and other child nutrition programs. Ultimately, childcare centers that offer meal options compliant with CACFP are more effective at delivering affordable, nutritious meals for the entire student body.
7. It Increases Retention
Many childcare centers conduct surveys to identify parental satisfaction levels. Even if your center doesn’t do that, you can bet most kids are reporting on their level of satisfaction when they get home each day. Custom daycare menus give families a sense of autonomy. They also accommodate different budgets, which make your center more attractive to parents — a huge determinant of higher student retention rates. In addition, when you offer custom daycare menus through Prime Child Care, you also increase your employee retention rates. Childcare is a rewarding, yet tiring job, and each effort you make to simplify tasks will improve employee satisfaction. Removing the extra steps teachers have to take to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children under their care is a gift.
8. It Fosters Inclusion
Prime Child Care’s Nutrition and Meal-Planning Software is inclusive in concept and practice. With different payment plans and payment methods, all parents can find a way to ensure their children’s wellbeing. Custom daycare menus also includes everyone in the fun of eating. Kids no longer have to forgo special treats or certain foods that the rest of the class enjoys. Instead, students can choose their own meals, so there’s diversity on the table and a wealth of food options available. Above all, meals that follow CACFP guidelines are inclusive of all cultures and income levels. Children who don’t eat balanced meals or can’t afford to follow the guidelines at home are at a disadvantage. However, custom daycare menus level the playing field.
9. It Provides a Safety Net
Unfortunately, childcare centers experience widespread illnesses from time to time. Whether it’s the flu, a virus, or strep throat, little ones like to share space and toys which leads to the spreading of germs. With individual meal planning, your center is safeguarded in three ways. First, each child has his own meal, so it reduces the likelihood of contamination through shared utensils. Second, if a student suffers a food reaction, it’s easy to trace it back to what she ate. And third, if there are widespread symptoms, you can quickly link it to which kids consumed a certain food to distinguish between food poisoning or a stomach virus.
10. It Keeps You Competitive
Parents have much to consider when selecting the right daycare center. Today, nutrition is an increasingly significant factor in their decision. Childcare centers that don’t provide menu options for picky eaters and protection from allergens won’t stand up to the competition. Obviously, your primary goal is providing top-notch care for your young charges. However, the reality is that you need to attract enough families to keep your business afloat and deliver on your mission. In that light, Prime Child Care Software is an efficient way to position your center for success. If you’d like to learn more about Prime Child Care’s meal management feature, contact us today! Our meal solutions are just the beginning. We can assist with all of your software needs, from enrollment to attendance tracking, parent engagement, and billing. Let us streamline your operations to maximize your daycare’s potential today.
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