Nutrition Services in Head Start… Then and Now

Nutrition is one of the founding principles of Head Start programs. In this article from Head Start Bulletin #48, health managers, nutrition coordinators, family service workers, and staff may read about the changes that have occurred for nutrition from the program's inception.

The following is an excerpt from...
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Robin Brocato, MH.S., Health and
Disabilities Branch, Head Start Bureau

Providing nutritious meals to children is a fundamental Head Start service. Did you know that nutrition was one of the founding Head Start principles? According to the book "Project Head Start, A Legacy on the War on Poverty," by Professor Edward Zigler, the effects of malnutrition on the intellectual development of mentally retarded children led those responsible for running the War on Poverty to theorize that perhaps there were similar effects on low-income children. Today family lives are more hectic and there is less time to get together for meal times. So meals served to children in Head Start are still as important now as they were when the program was founded.

The first guidelines of the Head Start nutrition program focused on the importance of providing children with nourishing food and opportunities to promote intellectual and social development. The important role of parents in their children's nutrition was also stressed. Over time the nutrition component evolved to include nutrition education to children, parents, and staff; nutrition staff qualifications; community nutrition problems and resources; and introducing a variety of  foods to young children.

Today, providing nutrition services in Head Start is becoming in creasingly more complex. We are constantly being presented with new and, at times, conflicting information about what constitutes a healthy diet and how best to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

"Nutrition Services in Head Start… Then and Now." Brocato, Robin. Head Start Bulletin #48. DHHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 1993. English.

Last Reviewed: February 2009

Last Updated: August 28, 2015