This month, NCCOR published a new project page based on our latest report, titled Key Informant Interviews to Inform Nutrition and Physical Activity Efforts in Child Care Settings During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This report highlights research needs and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related legislation on the early care and education (ECE) system from the perspective of researchers, practitioners, and federal representatives.
NCCOR worked with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) to conduct key informant interviews to explore how the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and American Rescue Plan (ARP) investments may affect the ECE landscape and ECE facilities, including how it will impact children aged 0-13 years, the ages designated in the legislation. The report is also accompanied by a one-pager that highlights key themes and considerations for the strategic use of recovery funds. Key informants identified the following among impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on ECE settings:
- High levels of stress for program staff
- Increased food insecurity among children, families, and ECE staff
- Greater attention to existing structural inequality within ECE workforce
- Reduced physical activity
- Decreased nutritional quality of foods served
Adjustments and modifications made during the pandemic, often through temporary flexibilities and waivers from federal regulations, likely have both positive and negative impacts. In some cases, flexibilities may have granted leniency that contributed to programs providing less nutritious and more processed foods; however, these same flexibilities have also allowed new promising practices to emerge, such as virtual monitoring of Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) organizations. Key informants noted that the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization presents an opportunity to sustain beneficial flexibilities through longer-term policy change. Evaluations of the impacts of CACFP flexibilities and waivers on food security, diet quality, participation, and program cost could help inform policy. The report also identified 1) opportunities for recovery funding to strengthen child care systems, including actions to support staff recruitment and retention, and their ability to support children’s health and 2) related research and evaluation needs.
NCCOR intends for this report to reach researchers, federal agencies, and policymakers at state levels and early childhood administrators who can use this information to inform their recovery efforts and programs. For more information, check out NCCOR’s project webpage, Impact of COVID-19 on Child Care Programs, Potential Solutions & Emerging Opportunities, which shares potential solutions and considerations for recovery funds for each of these four groups.