A qualitative assessment of the impact of Texas policy changes on nutrition in child care centers in Travis County, Texas

Elizabeth Jean Camp, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Over half of children in the United States under age five spend 32 hours a week in child care, facilities, where they consume approximately 33-50% of their food intake. Objectives. The aim of this research was to identify the effects of state nutrition policies on provision of food in child care centers. Subjects. Eleven directors or their designee from ten randomly selected licensed child care centers in Travis County, Texas were interviewed. Centers included both nonprofit and for-profit centers, with enrollments ranging from 19 to 82. Methods. Centers were selected using a web-based list of licensed child care providers in the Austin area. One-on-one interviews were conducted in person with center directors using a standard set of questions developed from previous pilot work. Interview items included demographic data, questions about state policies regarding provision of foods in centers, effects of policies on child care center budgets and foods offered, and changes in the provision of food. All interviews were audiotaped and transcribed, and themes were identified using standard qualitative techniques. Results. Four of the centers provided both meals and snacks, four provided snacks only, and two did not provide any food. Directors of centers that provided food were more likely to report adherence to the Minimum Standards than directors of centers that did not. In general, center directors reported that the regulations were loosely enforced. In contrast, center directors were more concerned about a local city-county regulation that required food permits and new standards for kitchens. Most of these local regulations were cost prohibitive and, as a result, centers had changed the types of foods provided, which included providing less fresh produce and more prepackaged items. Although implementation of local regulations had reduced provision of fruits and vegetables to children, no adjustments were reported for allocation of resources, tuition costs or care of the children. Conclusions. Qualitative data from a small sample of child care directors indicate that the implementation and accountability of food- and nutrition-related guidelines for centers is sporadic, uncoordinated, and can have unforeseen effects on the provision of food. A quantitative survey and dietary assessment methods should be conducted to verify these findings in a larger and more representative sample.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Public health

Recommended Citation

Camp, Elizabeth Jean, "A qualitative assessment of the impact of Texas policy changes on nutrition in child care centers in Travis County, Texas" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1457533.