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New Jersey Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment in Child Care Project Brings Healthy, Active Policies to NJ Child Care Centers

The New Jersey Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care program (NJ NAP SACC) is an initiative of the New Jersey Department of Health, Office of Nutrition and Fitness (ONF) and ShapingNJ, the statewide public-private partnership for obesity prevention. It is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work - State and Territorial Initiative. ONF coordinated the project and contracted with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development (NJ DHS) to administer the project. NJ DHS in turn contracted with local child care resource and referral agencies (CCR&Rs). These CCR&Rs provided training and technical support to 105 child care centers around New Jersey. The New Jersey Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NJACCRRA) organized trainings and collected data during the project.

The NJ NAP SACC project aimed to improve nutrition, increase active play and other physical activity and limit television and computer use for children in licensed child care centers. Ultimately, we anticipate that these changes will reduce rates of childhood obesity in the long-term.  More specifically, the objective of the project was to provide training and technical assistance to targeted licensed child care providers in each New Jersey county to prepare them to adopt new policies and practices.

NJ NAP SACC Activities

Key project activities included:

  • Child care center recruitment and selection
  • Child care center self-assessments and action planning
  • Technical assistance
  • NAP SACC training
  • Post-project follow-up
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Key Results

Changes in Policies and Practices
  • Of the 54 indicators monitored on the NAP SACC assessment tool, the median score significantly increased for 26 of these indicators. No indicator decreased during the project.
  • More than 60 percent of child care centers increased the number of times during the year they train staff and provide education about nutrition and physical activity for parents.
  • More than half of the project centers made changes to improve the quality and/or enforcement of their written policies on physical activity and nutrition.
  • Additional changes included improved staff practices during meal times, increased availability of new foods, decreased availability of less nutritious foods, increased variety of play equipment and increased amount of outdoor play time.
  • Changes were not significant in many types of food offerings, play space and equipment, and staff practices during play time.

 Maintaining Changes in Child Care Centers
  • Ten months after the project end, more than three quarters of responding centers reported that the changes made in their centers during the project were still in effect.

 Implementing Changes in Child Care Centers
  • Trainers reported that making water more available, providing more active play time, and providing parents with more education were the easiest changes for child care centers to make.
  • Some of the most difficult changes for child care centers to make included providing more play equipment, serving meals family style, having staff help children recognize hunger and fullness and having staff lead physical activity.
  • Training and technical assistance as well as previously existing relationships between center directors and CCR&R trainers facilitated changes in child care centers.
  • Areas for improvement include sustaining training opportunities and linking efforts with broader community initiatives.
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