Center for Early Learning’s goal: delicious, nutritious

The Center for Early Learning at Del Mar College is part of a new program to help the children eat delicious yet healthy food.

The college has announced a sponsorship of the Child and Adult Care Food Program through the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Division. Melinda Eldrige, director of the CEL, has helped to make sure the criteria is met to be able to provide the children the meals.

“The meal patterns are very particular as far as what we have to meet,” she said. Eldrige stated that it balances that they are focused more on whole grain cereals rather than sugary cereals once a day in addition to the fruits and vegetables.

The program also involves a contract with a certified dietitian who helps come up with the meals each day for the children.

“We make sure that the menus are things that the children will enjoy,” Eldrige said.

Some of the favorites the children eat include burritos, fresh fruit, cheeseburgers even spinach all served in a special way.

“A good component to the program is we serve it family style so the kids are able to serve their food themselves,” she said, adding that this would encourage kids to eat the food that is served to them.

For the children to receive these meals, the parents must fill out income eligibility forms to help determine which category the families fall in.

“It determines which category they will be placed in whether they receive free or reduced meals,” Eldrige said.

These categories help determine how much the CEL gets reimbursed from the program. She also added that these categories only determine the amount received back and not having the families having to pay for these meals. Funds that get reimbursed to the CEL help them with the program in the long run, according to Eldrige. “There’s an incentive that we do get some federal dollars back into program for providing the meals.”

But above all, Eldrige said the importance is making sure to provide the children with these healthy meals.

“All children get to benefit from the program regardless of funding,” she said.

For more information on the program, contact the CEL at 361-698-1083.

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