The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is excited to announce a full suite of Smarter Mealtimes resources for early childhood education (ECE) settings – in Spanish! These materials were created in response to many requests from early learning and child nutrition professionals working with Spanish-speaking caregivers. These materials expand the reach of the Smarter Mealtimes Movement to encourage young children to try, select, eat, and enjoy healthy foods. The new materials translate and expand upon the English-language resources. These include the 20-point Scorecard, monthly Challenge worksheet, Handbook, free signage, and promotional materials, PLUS new materials such as new Fruits-and-Veggies ABCs posters and flash cards. Check them out at https://www.smarterlunchrooms.org/scorecard-tools/comidas-inteligentes-en-sitios-de-cuidado-infantil . Also, there are two upcoming webinars about these resources, one in English and one in Spanish! Read on for more details.
These tools are ideal for use in child care centers and home care settings led by caregivers whose primary language is Spanish, as well as for bilingual ECE settings. The ABCs posters and flash cards could also be used in K-12 schools where Spanish is taught or where there are Spanish-speaking students.
First, a little background: The Smarter Mealtimes Movement was developed in 2017 in partnership with the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP, and with stakeholders in the fields of extension, child care, and nutrition. Smarter Mealtimes took the effective, research-based strategies that make the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement successful in K-12 lunchrooms and adapted them to work in ECE settings such as daycare centers, HeadStart, and home care. By using behavioral economics to encourage little kids to try, select, eat, and enjoy healthy foods, these tools encourage kids to practice healthy norms and establish healthy eating habits. To learn more about the development of the Scorecard and other materials, check out this Lunchroom Buzz blog post, two archived webinars, and https://www.smarterlunchrooms.org/smarter-mealtimes.
These versatile resources can be used in many types of ECE settings, including daycare centers and homecare, licensed and unlicensed sites (with the industry knowledge, training, and access to industry communication this implies), sites which provide any degree of meal service and those who only serve home-packed foods, single-age or mixed-age settings, sites with large populations or those serving only a few kids, and sites with industrial food preparation and storage facilities as well as those that share family space.
Many of the resources are translated directly or with minor updates from the English-language versions. As with the English-language resources, the Spanish-language tools can used by any ECE caregiver. The 1-page Smarter Mealtimes Scorecard is supported by a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to explain common questions about the Scorecard, a Summary worksheet to synthesize the Scorecard results, and a Smarter Mealtimes Challenge monthly tracker to help caregivers maintain the new strategies they choose to implement. A Flyer and Brochure give overviews of the program and can be shared with parents or through doctor’s offices, play space bulletin boards, service agencies, and other communication venues. A literature review (still in English at this time) explains the science behind the strategies. The strategies are explained in detail in the Handbook: why they work, photos, and pro tips for easy implementation; plus, visit this page of curated links to other helpful resources such as healthy recipes, photo examples, tip sheets, nutrition education resources, and more)! Some resources are offered in in both English and Spanish, others just in English at this time –but built-in browser translators may make all resources accessible to all audiences.
The Smarter Mealtimes program has also made it easy to incorporate best practices and nutritional signage into any ECE space by offering free print-your-own PDFs. The signs include the 27-poster “Fruits and Veggies ABC” series and the 3-poster “3 easy ways…” series for caregivers detailing ways to involve children in mealtimes, model healthy behaviors, and promote fruits and vegetables. The ABCs designs can also be downloaded as flash cards (small, medium, and large sizes) to be used for educational games such as matching, letter and word identification, and nutrition education about the featured foods.
Lastly, the Healthy Food Choices in Schools Community of Practice will host two webinars featuring these materials. On May 22 at 2pm EST, Smarter Mealtimes developers Erin Sharp and Bianca Smith will introduce the new Spanish-language resources and share best practices for sharing them with Spanish-speaking caregivers (this webinar will be presented in English). On June 26 at 2pm EST, CACFP Program Specialist Celia Kennedy will introduce the Smarter Mealtimes Movement and explain how to implement the new resources in Spanish; this webinar will be designed as a professional development tool for caregivers. Webinar notifications are posted a month prior to each event and audiences can register for calendar notifications. Both webinars will be recorded. Please join us for these training opportunities and share news of them with your colleagues and with Spanish-speaking caregivers!
With today’s emphasis on preventing childhood obesity and promoting overall wellness and healthy habits, the need for a simple, effective, highly adaptable, low-cost or no-cost program like Smarter Mealtimes is clear. These new resources make it accessible to even more caregivers and the children they serve. Please look through these resources and share them with Spanish-speaking ECE caregivers and other providers (pediatricians, play groups, etc.) who serve families who speak Spanish. Let’s ensure the Smarter Mealtimes program reaches the widest audience possible and benefits every child.