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Title:Early care and education teachers' nutrition and healthful feeding practices: Implications for professional development
Author(s):Fisher, Meghan
Director of Research:McBride, Brent
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McBride, Brent
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Fiese, Barbara; McElwain, Nancy; Sanders-Smith, Stephanie
Department / Program:Human Dvlpmt & Family Studies
Discipline:Human Dvlpmt & Family Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):early care and education
feeding practices
professional development
early childhood nutrition
Abstract:Childhood obesity continues to be a major issue in the United States, with approximately 26% of the nation’s preschool-aged children being overweight or obese. This statistic is troublesome in that overweight preschoolers are at a significantly higher risk of being overweight or obese in adulthood, along with the myriad of comorbid conditions associated with obesity in adulthood. The early childhood years is a prime period to target obesity prevention efforts. During this time children learn about food, establish healthful eating behaviors, and develop food preferences that continue into adulthood. As a result, there is a pressing need to address practices that help preschool children learn positive nutrition and eating behaviors. At the same time changes in employment patterns and family structure have spurred an increase of young children in non-parental care. Approximately 7 million children attend center-based child care during which they consume fifty to seventy-five percent of their daily energy intake. Due to the large amount of time children are spending in child care centers, these settings offer a prime venue for addressing today’s childhood obesity issue. In response to growing concerns regarding childhood obesity, researchers have begun to explore the role of early care and education teachers’ nutrition and healthful feeding practices with the children in their care. Additionally, regulations and standards have emphasized the importance of providing professional development opportunities for educators in this area. However, current professional development activities focusing on nutrition and healthful feeding practices fall short in meeting the increasing demands placed on early childhood educators. Efforts are needed that can inform professional development initiatives that can better prepare early childhood educators to implement evidence-based best practices for nutrition and healthful feeding. This study generates new insight that helps to inform policies and practices related to professional development activities aimed at better equipping early childhood educators to implement evidenced-based best practices associated with healthful nutrition and feeding practices. This study focuses on two main aims: 1) To explore child care and Head Start teachers’ perceptions of their goals and roles during mealtimes, and what challenges create difficulties in these areas, and 2) To explore the self-identified gaps in child care and Head Start teachers’ knowledge base regarding nutrition and healthful feeding practices, and to explore how current professional development opportunities are meeting these needs. Forty early care and education teachers from both Head Start and Non Head Start centers participated in an over-the-phone interview. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. Themes are presented highlighting the teachers’ perspectives on their goals, roles, and challenges for mealtimes. Additionally, themes addressing the current trainings teachers are receiving on feeding and nutrition-related practices are described. Additionally, teachers’ perceived needs in this area are identified. Findings from this study provide valuable insight on how professional development can best prepare early care and education teachers to effectively implement best practices in the area of nutrition and healthful feeding practices.
Issue Date:2020-07-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Meghan Fisher
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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