Starting young children on a healthy path in life with proper nutrition is what the UAB Child Development Center is working to do. Fresh vegetables and fruits are now delivered weekly to the center by a local service, A New Leaf Farm Stand.
“We could never order the small quantities of fresh produce we needed,” said Randy East, director of the UAB Child Development Center, which serves children up to age five. “The size issues meant we had to order frozen or canned produce. That’s not ideal because of the additives and chemicals children should not be exposed to, and that’s what we’re trying to get away from.”
Eating a well-balanced diet each day promotes the optimal growth and development of children, and it also helps reduce the risk for future disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Child Development Center orders batches of seasonal fare like peaches, blueberries and corn for the children.
“The food we are getting in now is so much safer for them to eat because we know where it’s coming from,” East added, noting that the benefits go beyond the safety aspect.
“By presenting the children brighter, more flavorful offerings, they are more likely to make eating this way a lifelong habit,” he explained.
East said that thanks to their local delivery, their new ability to bring in fresh foods to serve at lunch and snack time has gone over very well with the children and their parents, as well as with the staff, adding “the children see the staff is excited about the natural goods, so they get even more encouraged to try them.”
Julie Price is a parent and coordinator of sustainability at UAB.
“It’s not just that they are eating fresher, it’s also that they’re eating local,” she said. “This food is not traveling as far or burning as many fossil fuels, and it’s also supporting the local economy.”
East also said their cook at the Child Development Center, Joycelynn Williams, has enjoyed the new challenges of working with fresh over frozen or canned, even though the prep time has increased.
“These foods require so much less doctoring up with seasoning and oils,” East said. “With the great variety and textures, it’s all win-win.”