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Illinois mulling tougher day care food rules

Illinois mulling tougher day care food rules

SPRINGFIELD | The Quinn administration wants to ban day care operators from giving kids cookies, cake and other unhealthy snacks as part of an initiative designed to combat childhood obesity.

Along with limiting or banning many sugary and fatty foods, the proposal would spell out how much television kids can watch and require providers to send the kids outside for playtime at least twice a day, weather permitting.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Dave Clarkin said the changes are designed to set children on a path toward a healthy lifestyle.

“By reaching out to the day care centers we’re changing the way that kids are fed and cared for not just when they are at the center, but also when they are at home,” Clarkin said.

The proposed changes, which are now being reviewed by a special panel of lawmakers, could go into effect within the next six to nine months.

Dana David, director of the Milestones Early Learning Center in Bloomington, said her facility already complies with some of the tougher standards. She said she supports the proposed changes.

“I think it’s a great effort,” said David, whose facility serves about 76 kids. “It’s important to begin instilling these practices in young children.”

The rules, first proposed by the Illinois Early Learning Council, would only apply to day care centers and not day care homes. An estimated 300,000 children could be affected.

The proposed rule changes, for example, would require day care providers to offer children at least two occasions per day of age-appropriate outdoor time, depending on the weather.

Children would be prevented from remaining still for more than 30 minutes, outside of scheduled nap times.

The rules would ban children younger than 2 from watching television and limit children age 2 and older to watching one hour per day of TV.

The new nutrition rules include a prohibition on serving snacks with high sugar or fat content and on using trans fats or saturated fats as butter substitutes.

Current rules forbid serving desserts with high sugar and fat content, but don’t mention serving those items as snacks.

In addition, infants may not have bottles in their cribs and older children may not carry no-spill cups throughout the day or night unless the cups contain only plain water.

The changes were based on recommendations from the Illinois Early Learning Council, a group formed in 2003 by the General Assembly dedicated to developing a statewide early childhood system that would ensure the healthy development of Illinois youth. Among the members are top aides to Gov. Pat Quinn, as well as members of child advocacy organizations.

Among the group's recommendations are bans on chocolate milk. They recommended no juice for children under 1 year of age.

In addition, they recommend that television should not be viewed by children while they are eating.

The recommendations also offer advice for day care operators.

"No foods shall be given to children as a reward for good behavior," the recommendations note.

June Davis, executive director of Bloomington Daycare Center Inc., which serves about 100 children in central Illinois, said many of the changes are already in place at her two facilities.

“I don’t think it's really going to affect a lot of operators,” Davis said Tuesday. “We don’t use TVs anyway. We already do not serve desserts.”


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