Spotlight Stories
A Habitat for Learning of Abilene, Bronze Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness areas: Menu, physical activity, nutrition education and child care environment

A Habitat for LearningA Habitat for Learning (AHFL) in Abilene is working toward a bronze-level Healthier CACFP Recognition Award by improving the quality of meals and snacks served, encouraging more physical activity and providing nutrition education in four centers. Using Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant funds AHFL will hire two lifestyle coaches to implement nutrition education and physical activity through daily health and physical education classes.  The food service staff will use the Rainbow In My Tummy® resource to improve the quality of meals and snacks served. Children will be offered more seasonal fruits and vegetables from local vendors.  

AHFL is a nonprofit providing a child care environment focused on strengthening families and communities by encouraging children to practice positive life principles. AHFL will use the HCACFPRA to support its mission of promoting education and positive life principles to young children and entire families, so that parents and children may grow to make more educated and informed choices that will impact their communities and society in a positive manner.

America Can of Dallas, Gold Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness areas: Menus, physical activity, nutrition education and child care environment

America CanCarol Wentworth is the director of child care operations for Wee Can Academy (America Can) and has more than 20 years of child care experience.  The program participates in the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and serves children ages 6 weeks through 12 years old.  

Wee Can Academy operates three early childhood development centers and plans to use the Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant funds to obtain a Gold Healthier CACFP Recognition Award (HCACFPRA) by improving the quality of meals and snacks served as well as adding a health and fitness component to the curriculum. A program coordinator was hired to implement the health and fitness curriculum at each of the three locations. 

Already, one center has an established garden. The children planted, tended, harvested and ate the food they grew which included basil, cilantro, squash, carrots and watermelons.   The two other centers participating in the HCACFPRA will be partnering with a local agency to learn gardening tips, create a center garden and train staff.  Grant funds will be used to purchase outdoor/indoor equipment to move the centers toward the HCACFPRA gold criteria for age appropriate physical activity. 

ANA’s Learning Center, Silver Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness areas: Menu, physical activity and nutrition education

Exterior of Ana's Learning CenterAtiya Ahmed, director of ANA’s Learning Center, successfully applied for a Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant and will use funds to bring a garden to the center, improve the quality of meals and snacks, increase physical activity and ultimately earn a Silver Healthier CACFP Recognition Award. 

The objective of the E3E grant program is to encourage children's health and well-being through the 3E’s of Healthy Living – Education, Exercise and Eating Right. E3E is intended to help CACFP contracting entities in child care implement the Healthier CACFP Award Program. 

ANA’s Learning Center is striving for a silver-level CACFP Recognition Award by improving the following wellness areas: 
  • meals and snacks
  • physical activity
  • nutrition education 

The garden will further the center’s goals of achieving a Healthier CACFP Recognition Award by providing outdoor physical activity through weeding, planting, watering and tending the garden. It will also serve as a nutrition education learning lab for the children so they can develop positive attitudes about fresh produce. The children’s ownership of the project and collaboration with other children will build leadership skills, promote teamwork and foster self-confidence. Ahmed’s plans include growing lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, cilantro, basil, spinach, bok choy, cabbage, zucchini and potatoes. The harvested produce will be incorporated on the child care menus to improve the quality of meals and snacks served.

ANA’s Learning Center is in Houston’s Cypress Fairbanks community and it was established in 2012. The center offers year-round day care for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years as well as before and after school services for school-age children. The main classroom curriculum is the Montessori Environment. 

ANA's Learning Center also will use the E3E grant program to support its mission of providing a nurturing, yet challenging place for all children to bloom into respectful, responsible, disciplined, independent, considerate and contributing members of society.

Brazos Valley Community Action of College Station, Silver Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness areas: Menu, physical activity, nutrition education and child care environment

BVCA LogoStacie Stefka, program administrator for Brazos Valley Community Action (BVCA)
Head Start and Early Head Start has 20 years’ experience in private and nonprofit early childhood education. BVCA helps to build strong early childhood education programs that promote health and educational growth for young children while providing family education and assistance in health, nutrition and school readiness.

BVCA Head Start and Early Head Start provide comprehensive educational and social services to eligible children and their families. Currently there are seven Head Start Centers, one Early Head Start Center and one Home Base program that serves both Head Start and Early Head Start. Services are provided to 547 children and their families in seven counties. BVCA Head Start and Early Head Start are committed to providing each child and parent with an opportunity to develop a love for learning. Parents can be involved in BVCA programs at all levels and they are encouraged to take leadership roles that will empower them to be successful.  

BVCA will utilize Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant funds to obtain a Healthier CACFP Recognition Silver award in four of its centers. Children’s understanding of nutrition education will be vastly enriched through hands-on activities from a variety of educational resources made available with grant funds. 

Tiered learning through age appropriate activities will be integrated into the daily activities. Current menus will undergo an upgrade using “Rainbow In My Tummy®” resources to improve the quality of meals and snacks served. BVCA will work with local farmers to meet the requirements for inclusion of seasonal crops and to build partnerships within the rural communities. 

Planned physical activities will be incorporated into lesson plans as well as free play. Weekly, the children will maintain and study the garden at their location. They will use this information to incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in all areas of the daily schedule. Quarterly, BVCA will have hands-on experiences with partnered organizations to promote gardening, increase awareness of farm to market, cultivate each site’s community garden, and promote physical fitness activities. Annually, BVCA will collaborate with community partners to host a field day at each site focused solely on physical activities. At the end of the year, outcomes of the recognition award (nutrition, healthy practices, summer fun physical activities and safety) will be communicated to the children’s families. 

Building Blocks Child Care of Sweetwater, Gold Award Level  Minimize 

Wellness areas: Menu and physical activity

Fun Fruits and Vegetables DrawingOwner/Director Trudy Bennett established Building Blocks Child Care Center in 2008 after her daughter’s search for child care did not lead to a suitable provider. That search, along with Bennet’s desire to spend time with her grandson and provide quality care, offered the necessary inspiration and Building Blocks was born. In the haste to open the doors, menus were quickly thrown together to meet Department of Family and Protective Services minimum standards for State Child Care Licensing. Several months later, she applied to become a Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provider and made a few changes in order to also comply with CACFP regulations.

Since the center’s opening, Bennet has sought to improve the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks at Building Blocks and go beyond crackers, juice and processed foods. When she received information regarding the Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant and the Healthier CACFP Recognition Award (HCACFPRA) grant, she knew she had to apply to support her efforts to raise her center’s nutrition standards. Now, Building Blocks is striving for a gold award which includes offering additional vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and using scratch cooking. Building Blocks used grant funds to purchase “Rainbow In My Tummy®” resources.

Grant funds also will improve physical activity by allowing Building Blocks to offer Taekwondo and Zumba classes weekly. Children will reap the health benefits of improved nutrient intake and increased physical activity throughout the day.  

The Children’s Place, Gold Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness areas: Menu, physical activity, nutrition education and child care environment

The Children's PlaceAmy Skinner, a native Texan, has worked in early childhood for the past 32 years. 
She has been the director and owner of The Children’s Place since 1996 and will celebrate the center’s 20 year anniversary this summer.  The past 32 years have been a rollercoaster journey filled with learning and adapting to new ideas and research, and then watching the impact it has on young lives. 

Using the Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant to obtain a Healthier Child and Adult Care Food Program Recognition Award (HCACFPRA) offers an important way to continue this journey. The Children’s Place is striving for a gold-level CACFP Recognition Award by improving the following wellness areas: 
  • meals and snacks
  • physical activity
  • nutrition education 
  • child care environment

Grant funds will support the center’s efforts to improve the menus by utilizing “Rainbow In My Tummy®” resources to help guide and provide new recipes, menus, incorporating local foods, and additional scratch cooking. 

Grant funds will help in organizing field trips, purchasing educational resources and educating staff on how to teach and influence children’s eating and exercise habits as well as make the child care environment one in which children have the opportunity to learn where their foods come from. Cooking activities and taste testing parties will also be included in the weekly curriculum.  Active play equipment will include bikes and trikes for outdoor play. These healthy messages will be passed on to family members so they can provide complete support for healthy lifestyles.

Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas, Gold Award Level  Minimize 
Hays County Crops for KidsWellness areas: Menus, physical activity, nutrition education and child care environment 

Mylinda Zapata is the Project Creator and Coordinator.  She has been with the agency since 1996 and has served as Nutrition Coordinator and now is the Health/Nutrition Coordinator. Mylinda graduated from Southwest Texas State University in 1988 will an Elementary Education Degree and from 1992-1994 completed hours in Nutrition and Food.  She has been involved with the local ISD’s Student Health Advisory Committees (SHAC’s) and has strived to implement a staff wellness program that encourages people to lead a healthier lifestyle.  

Community Action, Inc., of Central Texas (CAI) operates 13 center based Head Start and Early Head Start sites in Hays and Caldwell counties serving children birth-3.  CAI was a recipient of the Farm to Childcare grant in 2012. With this grant, the program was able to establish a solid partnership with the San Marcos Farmer’s Market and offer local produce on the menu on a weekly basis at 5 of the program’s sites. The Program was also able to put in a garden at one of the San Marcos sites, provide parent and child cooking activities that utilized local produce. Parents and children were able to try items that they had never tried before; and also become familiar with the idea and the importance of buying locally. The program is excited to implement the Healthier CACFP Recognition Award and pick up where they left off; targeting all 13 sites with parent and child nutrition activities and making menu improvements at 8 of their sites. Community Action, Inc., of Central Texas will strive for a silver award in all wellness areas utilizing the grant funds.

Kids “R” Fun, Gold Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness areas: Menus and child care environment

Gidget GarciaAs Director of Kids “R” Fun Daycare and Learning Centers, Gidget Garcia oversees and implements the Healthier Child and Adult Care Food Program Recognition Award (HCACFPRA) by utilizing funds from the Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) nutrition grants. Garcia uses her 13 years of experience in child care to work toward Kids “R” Fun‘s goals for educating children and providing opportunities to increase the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, and wholesome foods at the three locations in the San Antonio area.  

The centers are surrounded by farmers such as Koch Ranches, Braune Farms, My Father’s Farm, and Pearl Farmers Markets along with many independent farmers that sell their fresh produce at a variety of locations throughout the city and Bexar County. Kids “R” Fun Daycare and Learning Centers will form a network and partnership with these local area farmers to provide learning opportunities for children about healthy lifestyles while supporting local farmers.

Grant funds will be used to meet the gold criteria to improve the quality of meals and snacks served by producing new menus that increase local produce; offering family-style meal service and breastfeeding friendly policies; and encouraging physical activity through interactive free and structured play. Also, Kids “R” Fun Learning Centers already have established center gardens.  

Kids "R" FunSince receiving the grant funds, children have adapted to family-style meal service and love to serve themselves and socialize at meal time; learn about fresh fruits and vegetables, were they come from and try new foods; and parents are supportive and offer more fresh fruits and vegetables at home. 

Luv ’N’ Care Learning Center, Bronze Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness Areas: Menus, physical activity and nutrition education
Andrea White
Andrea White is the director of Luv ‘N’ Care Learning Center located in far Northwest Fort Worth. She has over 20 years’ experience in the early childhood field and holds a preschool child development associate degree.

Azmeena Shabout is the owner of Luv ‘N’ Care Learning Center and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and has worked in the industry for 15 years. She loves children and being involved in their early childhood education. “We have a wonderful center, an amazing director and great staff,” she said. We ‘LUV’ the families we serve.”
Azmeena Shabout
The Luv "N" Care Learning Center is a child-centered, hands-on academic preschool program offering care for children ages six weeks to six years and it is licensed to serve 114 children. The Children's Learning Institute implements the Texas School Ready! (TRS) project as an early education approach that serves at-risk preschool-aged children through shared resources between public and private early childhood education programs. 

Along with the TSR and Pinnacle Early Childhood Curriculum, Spanish, physical education, music, art, circle time and sign language are included in the daily schedule. Luv “N” Learn is currently working toward their National Association of the Education of the Young Child (NAEYC) certification. The learning center is involved with community projects such as clothes drives, food drives, fun-runs, childcare for community holiday shopping, etc. The school accepts Childcare Assistance and is a part of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Luv "N" Care will use the Establishing the 3E’s (E3E)  nutrition grant to gain a bronze level for the Healthier CACFP Recognition Award. Grant funds will be used to:
  • Create two vegetable gardens; 
  • install a greenhouse; 
  • implement a Stretch-N-Grow program;
  • develop menus to include healthier food and beverage options; 
  • develop opportunities for children to increase their awareness of new fruits and vegetables by the feel, smell and taste of them; 
  • and purchase a tether ball and outdoor play equipment. 

Luv N Care infant roomLuv N Care classroom
Luv N Care classroomLuv N Care classroom
Luv N Care classroomLuv N Care classroom

Spotlight on Nabor House Community, Gold Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness Areas: Menus, physical activity, nutrition education

Nabor House Community LogoNabor House Community opened its doors in February 2014 with its first center in the Cypress Fairbanks area in Houston.  In August 2014 a Spring Branch location opened and a third location is scheduled to open in 2016.  Currently, Nabor House Community serves 145 children and 120 families.

At Nabor House Community, children and families have access to safe, dependable, quality early childhood care at affordable rates.  Nabor House Community partners with low-income families to invest in their family’s future by supporting them as they work or attend school. The dependable, caring environment of Nabor House Community empowers parents to increase their earning potential and secure a more stable future for their families. The Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant to implement the Healthier Child and Adult Care Food Program Recognition Award (HCACFPRA) will support this mission and vision of the Nabor House Community. 

Nabor House Community class Chevonne Potter, manager of the food program at Nabor House Community, has worked in nonprofits focusing on children, youth, and adult programs for 20 years.  She has operated CACFP for almost 10 years.  With a bachelor’s degree in health, she loves incorporating healthy eating for young children and older adults.  

“If we can teach them how to make healthy eating choices now, we can teach them how to stay healthy as they grow,” she said. 

The HCACFPRA will assist in improving the quality of meals and snacks served to children, offer age appropriate physical activity, and increase the knowledge base of teacher and food service staff with nutrition education. Specifically, grant funds will be used to incorporate suggestions from Rainbow In My Tummy® to improve the quality of snacks served by increasing the offerings of fruits and vegetables; develop a tracking tool for physical activity; purchase outdoor/indoor physical activity equipment that includes building an outdoor bike path; and increase nutrition knowledge through standardized training.

Bananas, sunbutter and granola snacks   Banana, sunbutter and granola snack

New Hope Learning Center of The Colony, Silver Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness Areas: Menus and physical activity

New Hope Learning CenterNew Hope Learning Center (NHLC) will use the Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) nutrition grant funds to enhance its outdoor learning center with a new covered area and picnic tables. Giving the children a shady place to sit and enjoy a cool snack outdoors is part of NHLC’s effort to attain the Silver Award Level in the Healthier CACFP Recognition Award (HCACFPRA). Other initiatives include making CACFP meals, snacks and beverages healthier by ensuring the food service staff incorporates Rainbow In My Tummy® guidelines into menu planning. The children also will engage in more physical activity through the addition of A Creative Movement class in the weekly curriculum that is taught year round. It is a 30 minute class to keep children’s activity level up and encourage physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. 

New Hope Learning Center (NHLC) Assistant Director Mary Saye oversees the daily activities for HCACFPRA and considers CACFP an important part of the Methodist 
Church’s larger Bridging the Gap program that assists families succeed in life by bridging the gap between a parents’ desire for self-betterment, through employment or higher education, and affordable child care for families.  

NHLC, located in The Colony, Texas, provides low-cost, high-quality full-time day care for infants and children from low-income families. NHLC offers families peace of mind that their children are in excellent hands while they work or go to school. With this invaluable service, families have the opportunity to begin new employment immediately and/or remain in school while on the 6-12 month wait list for their Texas Workforce Solutions child care subsidy.

The Odyssey After School Enrichment Program of Rockport, Bronze Award  Minimize 
Wellness Areas: Menu and physical activity

Odyssey LogoOdyssey After School Enrichment Program (Odyssey) successfully applied for a Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) Establishing the 3E’s (E3E) grant and will use the funds to improve the quality of snacks served and increase physical activity and ultimately earn a Bronze Healthier Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)Recognition Award (HCACFPRA). 

The E3E funds will enable Odyssey to employ a Snack Coordinator to plan menus, prepare snacks, and teach children the importance of healthy eating. Cooking classes will be a part of the teaching element and will utilize Rainbow in My Tummy® curricula to ensure the bronze menu planning criteria is met.

To increase physical activity, the E3Es grant funds will be used to build community gardens on Odyssey’s acre of available land. Odyssey and its partner agency Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service have already begun building garden beds and planting trees with assistance from community Master Gardeners organizations. Children will increase physical activity levels by tending the gardens year round.   Odyssey also partner’s with “Walk Across Texas” and utilizes the exercise curriculum “Go Far” that grant funds will supplement to increase physical activity. 

Odyssey was established in 2002 to meet a need that existed in Aransas County where approximately 70 percent of the children served are eligible for CACFP At-Risk Afterschool meals.  Odyssey extends the school day by enhancing children’s learning with fun, innovative programs that build on the concepts presented in school and introduce children to activities such as golf, tennis, crafts, sewing, cooking, swimming and photography.

The E3Es grant funds will allow 100 percent of the children served by Odyssey to be immersed in a nutrition, exercise and agriculture project that involves healthy living instruction in a fun interactive environment.

Rolling Plains Management Corporation, Bronze Award Level  Minimize 
Wellness areas: Menu and nutrition education

Rolling Plains Management Corporation LogoSince1994 Lori Durham has been the eligibility, recruitment, selection, enrollment, and attendance/nutrition specialist for the Head Start/Early Head Start Program and Child and Adult Care (CACFP) contact person at Rolling Plains Management Corporation (RPMC).   

RPMC of Baylor, Cottle, Foard, Hardeman, and Wilbarger Counties is a private, nonprofit community action agency that provides services to qualifying individuals in 25 counties of the north central area of Texas bordering the Red River.  Services provided by the agency consist of child care assistance, Early Head Start, Head Start, day care, child nutrition, energy assistance, weatherization assistance, rural public and medical transportation, and emergency assistance through community services. Rolling Plains Management Corporation’s Head Start program is funded for 294 children and Early Head Start is funded for 82 children. 

RPMC will utilize grant funds to obtain a Healthier CACFP Recognition Award (HCACFPRA) bronze award. Menus will receive an upgrade by using Rainbow In My Tummy® resources to improve the quality and variety of menu items offered at meals and snacks. Seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables will be added to the menus. Monthly cooking experiences and tasting parties will be incorporated in daily classroom activities. 

Classroom staff will demonstrate proper handwashing and cooking safety tips for children. Parents will receive monthly menus, recipes and newsletters with wellness benefits. Parents will be invited to the centers to try out the new menu options and complete a survey to provide feedback. A registered dietitian will provide consultant services to train staff on menu planning, food purchasing, and sanitation. Information from program activities will be shared to increase nutrition knowledge to encourage and promote children and families to establish healthy, lifelong nutrition goals.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.  

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: 
 (1) mail: 
U.S. Department of Agriculture 
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights 
1400 Independence Avenue, SW 
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; 
(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or 
 (3) email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
© 2017 Texas Department of Agriculture