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Beckie Hildman directs the Child Care Support program for close to 200 family child care homes in Benton, Franklin and outlying Counties. Through the Benton Franklin Community Action Connection, she oversees the CAC nutrition monitors and trainers that support child care providers. Some of the support comes in the form of reimbursements for meals served through the federal Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We are one of the smaller programs with CACFP,” Hildman says. “We define success by the success of our providers. Our monitors go into the homes on unannounced visits. The majority of the time the visits are successful. We find that providers are following the food guidelines by serving the appropriate food along with talking with children about what they are eating.” Some providers submit menu information online. For those without access to computers or internet, monitors collect information to be input at the office. Staff members go over the information sheets to verify that providers are serving the correct quantities of each food group according to guidelines.
There is a demonstrated need for these services in the region. Most of the Tri-Cities child care providers work with children who qualify for the higher Tier 1 reimbursement for low income families. Hildman and her team initially contact providers when they attend introductory classes to get a license for their child care home. The licensor invites sponsors to the orientation. Hildman says, “Providers are going to have to follow the regulations, and we can say, why not participate in the CACFP program and get some reimbursement for what you are already doing?” Some of the providers themselves are living at the poverty level. Hildman says, “Many of our providers are a lifeline to the migrant community. We see some drop off in the winter when they lose their migrant clients. This is very difficult for the provider to lose this income. When families move back into the area to follow the harvest, some of the providers reopen.”
Hildman observes that many providers manage to run their child care homes as successful small businesses. ”Several providers are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Hildman says. “I have observed one of these providers and am always amazed to that see it runs like clockwork. You can watch the natural flow and see that the provider is following all the rules and federal guidelines.”
The CAC provides ongoing training. “A strong point is having water available for children at all times and incorporating how healthy eating goes along side physical activities," says Hildman. "We are planning continuing training around that, along with milk guidelines and how to take care of breastfeeding babies. We continue to learn about putting more variety into menus and making mealtimes fun for children.”
To anticipate changes in CACFP, Hildman keeps an eye on emerging policies in school districts, like removing sugary drinks and improving access to water. She sees the movement toward limiting food and beverage choices in schools to healthy choices only. She says, “Once they make requirements of the schools, it usually comes into child care. It’s important for us, to support our child care providers, as we all work together to keep our children healthy, happy, and on a path to a lifetime of healthy habits.”
Featured: March 2013
Child Care Homes and Centers
Beckie Hildman, Benton Franklin Community Action Committee, 509-545-4042