Meal Service
Meal Service Tips  Minimize 

Win Over Picky EatersChildren eating at a table
Create a kid friendly environment for children to try new foods.

Irregular and odd eating behavior is very common among young children.  Review the Institute of Child Nutrition’s Happy Mealtimes for Healthy Kids in order to reduce stress and struggles during meal and snack times.

    • Don’t Force Children to Eat – Let the child make the decision to try new foods. Give youngchildren time to try new foods; it can take more than a dozen tries to enjoy a new taste.
    • Be Determined – Routines offer children many opportunities to try a new food in a familiar and comfortable environment.
    • Children around a table
    • Do Not Bribe– This is a short term solution and may lead to more difficulties in the future.
    • Allow Children to Role Model– Less picky eaters can encourage pickier eaters to try something new. 
    • Explore Food – Allow children the ability to touch, feel and explore their food.

Make Mealtime Enjoyable
Create a nurturing environment for your senior population.  
Adults at a table
Nutrition habits become more important and vital to the elderly’s overall health. When the elderly eat nutritious meals, they can maintain sharp minds and alertness, increase their energy levels and improve quality of life. A pleasant environment improves the amount and types of foods eaten. 

    • Flowers on the table or eating outside in nice weather improves appetite and food consumption.
    • A polite, well-trained staff adds pleasure to the dining experience.
    • The elderly become more health-conscious when they eat meals with others.
    • Introduce ‘theme days’ in the dining room for example, Valentine’s Day, a harvest festival (perhaps produce grown by the seniors), a birthday party (celebrated one day each month) friendship or dessert day.

Meal Service Styles  Minimize 
“Best Practice” Family style:  The CACFP has long been recognized for its goals of providing nutritious meals to children and helping them establish good eating habits at a young age. Family style meal service further enhances these goals by encouraging a pleasant eating environment that supports and promotes meal time as a learning experience. Some family style basics: 
  • All food/beverage components of a reimbursable meal, in minimum required amounts, are served in common serving dishes (bowls, platters, pitchers) and placed on the table for all children and caregivers. 
  • Serving dishes are passed from one child to another and the children are allowed to serve themselves, based on developmental readiness, and assistance from the supervising caregiver. 
  • Caregivers encourage children to take the minimum required portion of each food component; however, if a child is hesitant, the caregiver will encourage them to try a small portion/bite.
  • If the child declines the food the caregiver will not force the child to take the food item. A child’s meal may be claimed for reimbursement even if s/he declines to select one or more offered food items. 

Pre-plated style: Staff pre-fill plates and glasses with all food/beverage components of a reimbursable meal pattern and serve to children/adults in the minimum required amounts

Combination style:  This meal service style combines pre-plated and family style meal services. It can be used when certain food items of a meal cannot be easily or safely passed in common serving dishes from one child to another. Example, hot soup or chili, if the adult is “pre-plating” these food items, the minimum required portion size must be served. In summary, the portion size of food items that are “pre-plated” must meet the minimum required portion size and food items served “family style” is decided by the child. 

Cafeteria style: Commonly found in school settings. Children/students are served the food components of their meal by food service staff as they proceed down the serving line. In some situations, a supervising adult may assist a child/student with his/her tray if unable to safely carry their tray to a cafeteria table. If a CACFP contracting entity receives or the children eat their meals at school, they may follow the NSLP meal pattern.

Adult Dining Experience  Minimize 
The atmosphere of the dining area is an important factor in encouraging participants to eat. Some suggestions to improve the senior dining experience include: 
  • Choose paint colors wisely using light, solid colors on the walls of the dining room 
  • Use contrasting solid colors for placemats, napkins, and dishes. This helps the participant locate the utensils and dishes.
  • Simple colorful centerpieces will create a homelike setting. 
  • Keep noise from the kitchen to a minimum.
  • Soft background music is pleasant for those with normal hearing, but may sound like noise or static to the hearing impaired. 
  • Provide each participant with a large napkin that can be put in the lap or tucked under the chin, or with two napkins – one for the lap and one to wipe the mouth. Some Seniors find bibs or aprons offensive – be considerate of their needs and preferences.
  • At mealtimes, have day care staff sit with participants who struggle to eat. Have the staff offer verbal, physical and emotional support to these participants to increase food intake.
  • A standard dining room chair with arm rests for support provides the best position for most adults to eat.
  • Maintain a room temperature that is comfortable to the participants. If the dining area is too cool, too stuffy, or too hot, the participants will not enjoy the meal.
  • Be aware of drafts and blowing air vents.
  • Offer to bring a sweater or lap blanket for a participant who is cold.

Additional Resources  Minimize 
Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility in Feeding” Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility in Feeding”
How to feed according to developmentally appropriateness
Resources to raise healthy children that are a joy to feed 
 CARE Connection (ICN)  CARE Connection (ICN)
  • Best practice resources for child care centers and family day care homes

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