Did You Know?

  • When fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods are available in child care and after-school settings, children eat more of them?
  • Limiting exposure to less healthy foods is an important aspect of acquiring tastes for a variety of healthy foods?
  • Child care staff need training on best practices in child health, nutrition, physical activity, TV limits and breastfeeding of young children?

Early Care and Education

The Department of Health works with Early Care and Education (ECE) programs, state-wide ECE agencies and other state departments to make it easier for children to have access to healthy foods and increased opportunities to be active. To help support implementation of the healthy eating and physical activity best practices identified in Caring for Our Children: Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs, Second Edition, the Department of Health has provided expansive state-wide training for ECE staff. Areas of focus include five healthy goals:


Early Care and Education Setting Workgroup

Through the Early Care and Education Setting Workgroup, the Department of Health has worked with stakeholders to support the adoption of an updated Manual of Requirements for Licensed Child Care Centers and the Manual of Requirements for Family Child Care Registration which include higher standards for healthy eating physical activity in all ECE settings.

Early Care & Education Setting Workgroup Representation

Advocates for Children of New Jersey
American Academy of Pediatrics – New Jersey Chapter
Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, Inc.
Child Care Aware New Jersey
Rutgers Cooperative Extension 
NJ Department of Agriculture, Division of Food and Nutrition
NJ Department of Children and Families, Office of Licensing
NJ Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood Education
NJ Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development
Women’s Center

ECELE Initiative

The National Early Care and Education Learning Collaboratives (ECELC) Initiative, led by the Nemours Foundation and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, promotes healthy environments, policies and best practices in the ECE settings to address childhood obesity. In New Jersey, participating child care, Head Start and pre- kindergarten programs serving children ages birth to five work to improve the environment, policies and practices related to healthy eating, physical activity, reduced screen time, and breastfeeding support.

The ECELC Initiative provides a series of 5 trainings, on-site Technical Assistance and Quality Improvement Items to help support programs in improving their policies and practices.  NJ’s ECELC Initiative has trained close to 200 licensed child care centers since 2013, from Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, and Union counties.  Early Care & Education programs are evaluated using the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC). The NAP SACC allows programs to evaluate their current policies and practices against the best practices for Breastfeeding and Infant Feeding, Child Nutrition, Infant & Child Physical Activity, Outdoor Play & Learning and Screen Time. Programs from Cohort 2 (2014-2015) made the following positive changes:

  • Among 52 programs, 94% had a positive change in the overall number of best practices met.
  • Among the 23 programs working to make improvements in breastfeeding and infant feeding, 70% had a positive change in the number of best practices met.
  • Among 52 programs focusing on child nutrition, 87% had a positive change in the number of best practices met.
  • Among the 52 programs addressing infant and child physical activity, 92% had a positive change in the number of best practices met.
  • Among the 52 programs concentrating on improvements in screen time, 61% had a positive change in the number of best practices met.
  • Among the 49 programs working to enhance outdoor play and learning, 88% had a positive change in the number of best practices met.
Policy Guidance

The Department of Health uses federal funding to help New Jersey ECE programs develop and improve healthy eating and physical activity policies. ECE programs can use these policy packets as a resource to guide them in the implementation of best practices.


Physical Activity

Grow NJ Kids

The Department of Health provides training and technical assistance to Quality Improvement Specialists (QIS) and Technical Assistance Specialists (TAS) who support ECE programs enrolled in the state's Quality Rating and Improvement System, Grow NJ Kids. Grow NJ Kids is an initiative to raise the quality of child care and early learning throughout New Jersey. Grow NJ Kids gives child care and early learning programs resources to assess and improve their programs, while providing parents with information that allows them to evaluate the quality of programs and make the best choices for their child.  The goal is to create a system that encourages ongoing improvement. 

Additional Resources

NJ SNAP-Ed: NJ SNAP-Ed is a Cooperative Extension Program aimed at improving nutrition and increasing physical activity among SNAP eligible audiences. This is accomplished through the provision of evidence-based nutrition education offered through numerous public-health approaches and community-based projects.

Child and Adult Care Food Program: The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care and making it more affordable for many low-income families. CACFP serves nutritious meals and snacks to eligible participants enrolled for care at participating day care centers and day care homes.

Women, Infants and Children: New Jersey WIC Services provides supplemental nutritious foods to pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants and children up to the age of five.  WIC services include nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding promotion and support, immunization screening and health care referrals.

Let’s Move Child Care: Everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity: schools, faith-based and community-based organizations, parents, and officials from all levels of government. Most young children spend time during the day in child care and early education programs, family child care settings or in preschool. Providers have a great opportunity to help children by incorporating five healthy goals in their programs.

Last Reviewed: 3/16/2017