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We evaluated the extent to which providing training and technical assistance to early childcare centre (ECC) directors, faculty and staff in the implementation of evidence-based nutrition strategies improved the nutrition contexts, policies and practices of ECC serving racially and ethnically diverse, low-income children in Broward County, Florida, USA. The nutrition strategies targeted snack and beverage policies and practices, consistent with Caring for Our Children National Standards.
We used the nutrition observation and document review portions of the Environment and Policy Assessment and Observation (EPAO) instrument to observe ECC as part of a one-group pre-test/post-test evaluation design.
ECC located within areas of high rates of poverty, diabetes, minority representation and unhealthy food index in Broward County, Florida, USA.
Eighteen ECC enrolled, mean 112·9 (sd 53·4) children aged 2–5 years; 12·3 (sd 7·2) staff members; and 10·2 (sd 4·6) children per staff member at each centre.
We found significant improvements in centres’ overall nutrition contexts, as measured by total EPAO nutrition scores (P=0·01). ECC made specific significant gains within written nutrition policies (P=0·03) and nutrition training and education (P=0·01).
Our findings support training ECC directors, faculty and staff in evidence-based nutrition strategies to improve the nutrition policies and practices of ECC serving racially and ethnically diverse children from low-income families. The intervention resulted in improvements in some nutrition policies and practices, but not others. There remains a need to further develop the evaluation base involving the effectiveness of policy and practice interventions within ECC serving children in high-need areas.
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