Bureaucrats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will weigh and measure children in daycare as part of a study mandated by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The agency published a notice in the Federal Register on Friday proposing data collection on what meals are served in professional and home daycare facilities and how much physical activity children perform.
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Aside from assessing how healthy the food in daycare is, the USDA will also check the weight and height of roughly 3,000 children.
"Children will be asked to cooperate with study staff who will weigh and measure them for the Standing Height and Weight Form," the notice said.
The study is required by section 223 of Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama and passed in 2010. The main aspect of the law implemented new standards for school lunches.
A lesser-known requirement of the law is the "Study on Nutrition and Wellness Quality in Childcare Settings (SNAQCS)," which the USDA announced Friday. The public will have 60 days to comment.
The USDA said the data collection is important since more than 30 million kids are in daycare.
"Good nutrition is a key to proper childhood development, but not enough is known about the food children are eating in childcare and related programs," the agency said. "In 2011, 32.7 million children were in a regular childcare arrangement while their parents worked or pursued other activities outside of the home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau."
The study will collect data on the "nutritional quality of foods offered, physical activity, sedentary activity, and barriers to" healthy food and exercise in childcare.
The study will focus on childcare centers and family daycare homes, including those that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which provides federal funding for meals and snacks.
"The intent of the study is to document the quality of meals and snacks offered in childcare facilities, relative to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which are prepared by USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the types of activities that might promote or inhibit healthy weight and development," the USDA said. "The study will also provide insights into how nutritional quality and physical activity in childcare might be improved. Lastly, the study will collect data on the costs of childcare meals and snacks in relationship to CACFP reimbursements, other funding, and meal quality."
The USDA said the study would collect a "broad range of data" from daycare sponsors, food preparers, childcare staff, children, and parents.
"In addition, the study will include an Environmental Observation Form and a Meal Observation Form that will be completed by study staff and do not have any associated burden for study participants," the agency said.
The agency estimated that the study would involve 12,472 participants, including 3,000 children who are in childcare centers, family day care homes, and after-school programs that receive funding from the CACFP.
The USDA said the study takes place in the "context of heightened concern about adequate nutrition, diet quality and obesity in young children."