Little Changes Make a Healthy Difference: How one provider transformed her center and herself

Little Changes Make a Healthy Difference: How one provider transformed her center and herself


Kim Bjorklund

Good nutrition and strong physical activity habits are essential for us all! For Kim Bjorklund, owner of Safe Haven Child Care Center, these became a life-changing journey.  After examining her program’s monthly menu with a local dietitian, Kim identified areas that needed to change.

It started when she noticed herself and the children in her care could benefit from better nutrition and healthy eating habits. “A parent told me her little guy could eat Alfredo sauce and noodles all day long. Her little guy was not little, at nine months, he was almost wearing a size 3T. I had 50 pounds to lose too.”

Kim, who has been a WECA Food Program provider since 2002, set out to be a good example for the children in her care by talking the talk. The result, more than 40 pounds lost to date.  “With only a few slight changes to my diet and walking every day, I lost weight! I could not have done this without the guidance from Sarah and her Child Physical Activity and Nutrition class.”

fp-cacfp-meal-pattern-changes-10-2017Here are Kim’s top five strategies for healthy kids and a healthy you!

  1. Eliminate fruit juice. Juice is loaded with sugar, and filled with empty calories. Instead, kids enjoy fruit-infused water or milk.
  2. Switch to whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Both contain more fiber, protein, and other healthy nutrients.
  3. Eliminate sweets after meals and for snacks. If you must, focus on a smaller serving size or serve fruit.
  4. Make outside play is a high-priority. “I make an effort to get outside more often to play games that promote large motor skills.”
  5. Plant a garden at your center. “We had pumpkins, beans, peas, onion, squash, radish, celery, tomatoes and one huge sunflower this year! The fresh produce ready to eat and learning experience for the children is a win-win for everyone.” Studies show that kids who are involved in planting, working in and harvesting a garden tend to eat the food they helped grow!

“My number one piece of advice is to be a good role model,” Kim shared. “Take care of yourself too. We are isolated with children all day, so it is easy for our weight to get out of hand. Little changes make a difference.”

Need more tips that can help transform your childcare programs into a healthy and vibrant one?  Our Healthy Bites Overview webinar provides an overview on developing a strong nutrition policy, the updated CACFP meal pattern requirements and information about YoungStar nutrition requirements. Watch it today!

Thanks to all who’ve responded to “the missing link” posting.

Thanks to all who’ve responded to “missing link” posting. It has sparked lively discussion. Despite a variety of perspectives, it’s important to name the common goal we all share:  We all strive for quality because we value children, their families, and the important work we do.  So, let’s keep the dialog open and let’s explore solutions to challenges, but let’s also celebrate the tremendous gains we have made to improve child care quality.

A few highlights:


  • 3 out of 4 family child care providers in Wisconsin participate in a Food Program – funded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  WECA alone processes almost $400,000 in claims monthly.


  • Annually, Wisconsin allocates $4M to T.E.A.C.H. scholarships that provide accessible and affordable education for child care providers and to REWARD stipends.
  • 1,100 child care providers participate in T.E.A.C.H. and 84% of them work in 2 and 3 star programs.  Last year 1,612 providers received REWARD stipends.


  • With YoungStar funding, over 3,000 Micro-Grants have been awarded – a $2.2M commitment to materials and resources for quality improvement within child care settings.
  • To date almost 15,000 on-site technical consulting visits were made to over 4,000 child care programs, and 1,500 hours of training has been provided.
  • 3,065 programs have been contacted by the Professional Development Counseling service, including all 2-star programs in Milwaukee. The service is offered free of charge.

Wisconsin’s children deserve the best possible start through quality early care. Thank you for your commitment to Wisconsin’s children.

Food Program Offers USDA Wellness Grant

WECA Food Program participants may now apply for a USDA Child Care Wellness Grant administered by the Wisconsin Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Sponsors Forum and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Selected grantees will be awarded a nutrition kit of their choice from the following: physical activity for kids, cooking with kids, or nutrition education. The grant is an opportunity for family child care providers to develop and implement policies that improve the overall nutrition, physical health, and well-being of children. Up to 300 providers will be chosen as pilot sites.

Selected pilot sites will be required to:

  • Attend a training workshop or view a training webcast;
  • complete a baseline evaluation;
  • participate in two sessions of on-site technical assistance;
  • and complete a post-evaluation.

Upon successful completion, participating sites will receive a framed certificate. All WECA Food Program participants are encouraged to apply. For consideration, Wellness Grant applications must be postmarked no later than August 12, 2011. Mail completed applications to:

Wisconsin CACFP Sponsors Forum
PO Box 10384
Green Bay, WI 54307

To download an application, click here.

For questions, please call the WECA Food Program at 1-800-783-9322 ext. 7245 or contact your WECA Area Coordinator.

Child Care Wellness Grant Opportunity- Group Child Care Programs

Wisconsin Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Child Care Wellness Sub-grants are now available and will be awarded to CACFP child care institutions (child care group centers, emergency shelters, at-risk sites, outside of school hours sites) through a competitive application process. Grant applications will be accepted until July 21, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. This grant opportunity is available through the WI Department of Public Instruction.

Want to learn more about the WI CACFP Child Care Wellness Sub-grant opportunities? Click here  to find the:

  • Grant Announcement Letter
  • Grant Application Form
  • Grant Application Instructional Guide
  • Other helpful resources to assist in the application process

Note: Wellness Sub-grant opportunities for family child care programs will be announced separately by the Wisconsin CACFP Sponsors Forum in the near future. If you are affiliated with a family child care program, keep checking back to our blog to find out when this opportunity is available (or call your CACFP Sponsor for more information).

Early Education is Prioritized in Federal Spending

2011 Early Education Spending Increases Suggested
On July 15th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education approved a fiscal 2011 spending bill that would increase federal early education spending. The spending bill includes:

• An increase of $700 million for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (total appropriation of approximately $2.827 billion). This suggested increase is the largest increase since 2000 and will help states maintain some investments made with ARRA funds. States use CCDBG dollars to improve access, affordability, and quality within child care.

• An increase of $866 million for Head Start funding (a total appropriation of $8.1 billion). This increase will help ensure that crucial Head Start classrooms added with ARRA funding remain open.

• An increase of $5.5 billion in discretionary funding for Pell Grants (total of $23.162 billion). This funding will ensure that more early childhood professionals- as well as other individuals- will be able to afford to attend college.

Next, this plan will travel to the full Appropriations Committee and the full House of Representatives to be considered.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Improvements
On June 15th, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act (H.R. 5504) with a bipartisan vote of 32-13. The bill strengthens CACFP programs by providing funding for five state pilot programs to provide an additional meal or snack, reducing paperwork and simplifying program requirements, increasing support for CACFP sponsors as they enroll child care providers, and enhancing the nutritional quality of food served in early childhood settings.

Federal Bill to Expand and Improve Child Care Nutrition Programs

Earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill that would strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act of 2009 (S. 2749) includes changes to nutrition programs for young children in child care centers, family child care programs, and Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Specifically the bill includes 1) increased reimbursement rates to participating providers to cover the cost of healthy food, 2) expanded eligibility guidelines to serve more low-income children, 3) that addition of a third meal or snack option for providers to claim, and 4) improved program and paperwork requirements for providers, sponsoring programs, state agencies, and parents. A bill like this can reduce childhood hunger and obesity, especially for children from low-income families.

If you are in favor of these changes, please contact Senator Herb Kohl and Senator Russ Feingold TODAY to tell them that you support the Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act (Senate Bill 2749). You can find out how to contact Senators Kohl and Feingold by clicking here and entering your mailing address.

Sample message to your representative:
My name is ___ and I am one of your constituents. I urge you to support the Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act, or Senate Bill 2749. This bill is a critical investment that can improve young children’s access to nutritious food while in child care programs. This bill also aims to lower childhood obesity, especially for children from low-income families.

Specifically, I am in favor of expanded eligibility guidelines to serve more low-income children, increased reimbursement rates to providers to cover the cost of healthy food, and adding a third meal or snack option for providers to claim.

CACFP Reauthorization

This year, the US Congress has an opportunity to improve services to children through the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (H.R.2997). A well-drafted reauthorization bill that includes improved access to services, meal quality, and nutrition education can reduce childhood hunger and obesity, especially for children from low-income families. The reauthorization bill would include changes to nutrition programs for children in child care (the Child and Adult Care Food Program), in school, and at home (through the WIC Program). The contents of the bill are currently being discussed in the Agriculture Appropriations conference committee. Senator Kohl and Representative Obey from Wisconsin are part of the Appropriations Committee.

The Food Research and Action Center- in conjunction with members of the Child Nutrition Forum- have created a “Statement of Principles” in response. These principles provide Congress with guidelines as they reauthorize child nutrition programs. For the Child and Adult Care Food Program in particular, the statement urges Congress to expand eligibility guidelines to serve more low-income children, to increase reimbursement rates to providers to encourage participation, to allow providers to serve a third meal, and to provide training and technical assistance to participating programs. Click here to learn more or to sign in support of these principles.

Please contact Senator Herb Kohl and your other federal representatives TODAY if you support expanding child nutrition programs. You can find out how to contact your US Congressional Representatives by clicking here and entering your mailing address.