Healthy Children - June 2018

ExceleRate Illinois in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services is providing information on healthy choices. The Healthy Children, Healthy Families Project will communicate to parents, child care practitioners, and others who visit the website, the seriousness of obesity in young children and to link them to current research on the issue.

Helpful suggestions for meal planning, recipes and healthy physical activities are presented on this site for children and the health of the entire family.

New ideas are listed every month. Each month a new column on this issue of national concern is posted. It answers questions you have regarding children and healthy lifestyles -- be sure to check it out.

For more information contact the Illinois Department of Human Services at (217) 785-9336 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also contact your local Illinois Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.

The consumer health information on childhood obesity provided by the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies on the site or by any links to other sites is for information purposes only and should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan, product or course of action. This web site generally links to other sites that are informational in nature and does not link to commercial sites that are primarily intended for the sale of products or services. Use of this site or any links to other sites does not replace medical consultations with a qualified health or medical professional to meet the health and medical needs of you or a loved one. You should promptly seek professional care if you have any concern about the health of you or a loved one and you should always consult your physician before you or a loved one starts a fitness regimen.

 From Farm-to-Child Care

Since I was a little girl, the farm has always been so interesting to me! Many of us have heard the nursery rhyme: “Old MacDonald had a farm, EE-I-EE-I-O, and on that farm he had a [cow], EE-I-EE-I-O…” Even now, this nursery rhyme is ringing in my ears. So how can be connecting the farm to child care? Answer: through the foods that are found on the farm.

It is so important for children to understand the origin of food. It is also important for children to see where their foods are grown, so that they can appreciate them more. The Farm-to-Child Care initiative connects local food producers and processors with early care and education sites. The goal is for these child care sites to purchase healthy local foods to be served in meals or/and snacks.

One of the many advantages of receiving food from the farm is the increased consumption of fresh produce within the early care setting. Another advantage is that it helps shape the taste preferences of the children at a young age. Both these behaviors aid in decreasing childhood obesity.

So take the time out this summer and invest in outdoor food experiences with your children. Take them to the farmer’s market. Take them to a garden. Conduct a food experience with the children with freshly grown produce and let them get involved. Children will soon learn, not only can cows, be found at the farm, but spinach, yams, and potatoes too!

Why is it important to eat Vegetables?

Eating vegetables provides health benefits – people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.


  • Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol. (Sauces or seasoning may add fat, calories, and/or cholesterol.)
  • Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A and vitamin C.
  • Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, while potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
  • Dietary fiber from vegetables, as a part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
  • Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.
  • Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
  • Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Vitamin C aid in iron absorption.

Health Benefits

  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
  • Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
  • Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium as part of an overall healthy diet may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, and help to decrease bone loss.
  • Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.

Summer Meals: Closing the Gap

Summer can be the hungriest time of the year for kids and the most expensive time for parents. Kids and parent who rely on free or reduced – priced meals through NSLP no longer have access to these meals when school is out for the summer. To help close this gap, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also known as the Summer Meals Program serves free meals to kids 18 and under during the summer months, helping families make their food budgets work.

The Summer Meals Program is funded by the USDA and administered by ISBE. This program continues to be severely underutilized by many families and kids. Barriers like transportation, unsafe streets, distance, and lack of awareness stop many from accessing the program and getting the food they need.

Innovative strategies and leveraging partnerships can increase awareness and participation in the Summer Meals Program. Additionally, there are opportunities to update the federal policy that governs the program to support and strengthen existing summer meals sites through policies that make it easier for states to reach low-income children.

-Lt. Governor’s Challenge Aimed to Increase Summer Meals

“Child hunger has no summer break. This is why the Summer Meals program is so important. We must ensure children have access to nutritious and reliable meals all summer long.”  Lt. Governor Sanguinetti

As part of the 2017 National School Breakfast Week (NSBW), Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti issued a state-wide challenge to increase the number of summer mea sites. The challenge helped to decrease the number of countries having zero Summer Meal sites from 35 in 2016 to 27 in 2017.

-Spotlight: A Mobile Response to Summer Meals:

Summer means kids no longer have access to free or reduced – price school meals, which can put a strain on food budgets for many families. This is where the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Lunch Bus filled in.

Every day, Darius ran to the Lunch Bus and waited at the park before distribution started. His mom, Karon Shelton, said some days he woke up at 7 a.m. asking to go down to the park. “He would say, “Let me go see my friend down there’ and I said, ‘Who?’ He would yell, ‘The Lunch Bus, the Lunch Bus,” Karon said. Darius, who lives just up the street from Downey Park in south suburban Calumet City is just one of the kids who received a summer meals from the Lunch Bus last summer.

The mobile summer meal program traveled to 24 sites on four different routes: the north city, south city, south suburbs and west suburbs. Each bus made six stops a day at a variety of places including libraries and parks.

The Lunch Bus sites serve approximately 4,000 meals every week during the summer months. All meals included a sandwich, a side of fruit, a side of vegetables and a carton of milk.

Jill Koontz and her daughters went to the Lansing Library Lunch Bus stop every day. Jill said the Lunch Bus was “hugely helpful” because the summer can be tough for her family.

USDA Celebrates CACFP’s 50th Birthday

The USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) turns 50 on May 8, and we have so much to celebrate.

A half a century, CACFP has supported working families by ensuring that children, as well as elderly and/or disables adult get healthy meals and snack when they are being cared for away from home. More than 4.4 million children and 131,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day through our partners. And it’s a number that keeps growing, as more caregivers go back to work and need care for their loved ones.

CACFP makes a difference for our participants and their caregivers. Babies, preschoolers, and older children get wholesome meals and snacks, as well as nutrition education to help them grow healthy, smart and strong; while elderly and disables adults get balanced meals and snacks that support healthy, active aging. All those meals are delivered by partnering care providers, such as day care centers, family day care homes, emergency shelters, afterschool programs and adult day care facilities. Many parents look for participation in CACFP as they shop for care providers for their loved ones, since CACFP’s participation is considered a mark of high-quality care.

CACFP makes a difference for local communities, too. CACFP funding and guidance help support care providers, increasing the number of affordable care options in local communities, especially in rural areas. When parents know that excellent care is available for their loved ones, they feel more confident returning to the workplace. It all adds up to strong communities and more peace of mind for our nation’s working parents. Wondering how CACFP delivers such high impact services? It’s through high standards, excellent program support and a group of partners worth celebrating. The recently updated CACFP meal pattern adheres to the most up-to-date nutrition recommendations, and our partners receive training, technical assistance, and ongoing guidance so that they can deliver nutritious meals while meeting our high fiscal standards.

Just last week FNS announced the availability of $5.4 million in training grants to help child and adult care providers deliver first class meal service. These grants will empower states and operators with the resources to run CACFP in ways that best serve their needs. We are committed to listening to our partner and giving them the resources to protect the health and well-being of the children and adults they serve.

And CACFP just keeps getting better.

We’re working on growing partnerships to increase participation among day care providers, further strengthening program integrity, and publishing new resources for providers on how to cook healthy, delicious meals. We also have a library of downloadable resources, including our newest recipes, at

All of our partners thank you for 50 wonderful years serving working families and supporting CACFP! Celebrate with us supporting CACFP in your community.

To find a care provider in your community that offers CACFP meals or if you are a day care provider who would like to start serving CAFP meals, visit:

Foodborne Illnesses and Germs

What Causes Food Poisoning?

Many different disease-causing germs can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections.

CDC estimates that each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

  • Researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases.
  • Most of them are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
  • Harmful toxins and chemicals also can contaminate foods and cause foodborne illness.

Do I Have Food Poisoning?

Common symptoms of foodborne diseases are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, symptoms may differ among the different types of foodborne diseases. Symptoms can sometimes be severe and some foodborne illnesses can even be life-threatening. Although anyone can get a foodborne illness, some people are more likely to develop one. Those groups include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • People with immune systems weekend from medical conditions, such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, organ transplants, HIV/AIDS, or from receiving chemotherapy or radiations treatment.

Most people with a foodborne illness get better without medical treatment, but people with severe symptoms should see their doctor.

Some Common Foodborne Germs:

The top five germs that cause illnesses from food eaten in the US are:

  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella
  • Clostridium Perfringens
  • Campylobacter
  • Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph)

Some other germs don’t cause as many illnesses, but when they do, the illnesses are more likely to lead to hospitalization. Those germs include:

  • Clostridium Botulinum (Botulism)
  • Listeria
  • Escherichia Coli (E. Coli)
  • Vibrio

Food Safety Tips:

Anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food. Learn the four simple food safety steps – clean, separate, cook, and chill – to lower your chance of food poisoning and to protect yourself and your loved ones.

CDC Launches Website on Infant and Toddler Nutrition

Good nutrition during the first 2 years of life is vital for healthy growth and development. Children grow and develop every day. As they grow older, their nutrition needs changed. Children with healthier eating patterns in their first year of life are more likely to have a healthier eating pattern later on. Yet too many children are not eating a healthy diet.

Among U.S. children between 1 to 2 years of age:

  • 15% are iron deficient
  • Fewer than half ate a vegetable on a given day
  • More than 3 out of 10 children drank a sugar-sweetened beverage on a given day

Credible information about infant and toddler nutrition is important for parents and caregivers. CDC is providing parents of young children with this nutrition information to help infants and toddlers get a healthy start in life.

CDC is releasing a website that bring together existing information and practical strategies on developing healthy eating patterns in infants and toddlers, from birth to 24 months of age.

Topics Include:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Formula feeding
  • Essential vitamins and minerals
  • Introduction of solid foods
  • Foods and drinks to encourage
  • Tips on mealtime routines, and more!