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Happy New Year: Let’s Start Fresh!

The New Year is a great time to turn the page. It’s a time for fresh ideas too. Let’s start this year with enthusiasm for a new start and fresh ideas for providing meals and snacks through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). ICN would like to extend a very heartfelt Happy New Year to all of you for a very healthy and prosperous 2021!

Here’s to a fresh start in 2021!

Speaking of fresh, the 2021 Mealtime Memos (MTM) feature a new look and new content. You might have noticed the new look. The MTM is now a blog-style electronic newsletter. Each MTM will have different sections that you can use.

  • Each month will have a different theme. This month is Let’s Start Fresh.
  • We will also highlight popular food themes for creating appealing and nutritious menus.
  • Another new feature is the What’s in Season section, which will offer useful information about in-season produce.
  • The new MTMs will feature a Food Facts for Kids section with fun and interesting facts to share with kids. It is never too early to start nutrition education.
  • Lastly, each MTM will offer a peek into the next month’s MTM by highlighting what is coming.

January Food Themes

There are many fun theme days throughout the month of January. Consider using some of these national food days to brighten your menus and excite the children in your care. Click on the images to view more information.

Spaghetti Day – Jan 4

From the variety of textures to the delicious flavors, spaghetti is a favorite item to prepare and serve. Get everyone ready for National Spaghetti Day by reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett. Here is a delicious recipe featured in ICN’s Child Nutrition Recipe Box (CNRB). Be sure to notice the creditable meal components listed in the recipe!

Popcorn Day – Jan 19

Whether served as a snack or at lunch, many children (and adults alike) love popcorn! Consider making some with your children. Did you know that popcorn can be served as a creditable whole grain for meals or snacks? {1½ cups [or 0.5 ounces (14 grams)] popped popcorn as ½ ounce equivalent}. Be aware that popcorn can pose a choking hazard for children. Extra caution should be used when serving.

Blueberry Pancake Day – Jan 28

Blended with a little water, blueberry juice makes a fun, unique paint that children can use to practice their art skills. Pair this fun activity by making your own blueberry pancakes on National Blueberry Pancake Day! Consider folding fresh or frozen blueberries into the batter, then for added fruit flavor, top with fruit sauce, berry jam, or more blueberries (fresh or frozen) instead of syrup. Pancakes can be credited as a grain, and a creditable fruit can be counted if you add the blueberries.

Get Recipes on the Child Nutrition Recipe Box

January Food Themes

There are many fun theme days throughout the month of January. Consider using some of these national food days to brighten your menus and excite the children in your care. Click on the images to view more information.

Spaghetti Day – Jan 4

From the variety of textures to the delicious flavors, spaghetti is a favorite item to prepare and serve. Get everyone ready for National Spaghetti Day by reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett. Here is a delicious recipe featured in ICN’s Child Nutrition Recipe Box (CNRB). Be sure to notice the creditable meal components listed in the recipe!

Popcorn Day – Jan 19

Whether served as a snack or at lunch, many children (and adults alike) love popcorn! Consider making some with your children. Did you know that popcorn can be served as a creditable whole grain for meals or snacks? {1½ cups [or 0.5 ounces (14 grams)] popped popcorn as ½ ounce equivalent}. Be aware that popcorn can pose a choking hazard for children. Extra caution should be used when serving.

Blueberry Pancake Day – Jan 28

Blended with a little water, blueberry juice makes a fun, unique paint that children can use to practice their art skills. Pair this fun activity by making your own blueberry pancakes on National Blueberry Pancake Day! Consider folding fresh or frozen blueberries into the batter, then for added fruit flavor, top with fruit sauce, berry jam, or more blueberries (fresh or frozen) instead of syrup. Pancakes can be credited as a grain, and a creditable fruit can be counted if you add the blueberries.

Get Recipes on the Child Nutrition Recipe Box

Pizza Week – Second Week in January

Bring a little Italian culture to your children this week by making pizza. Children can add their own toppings to plain cheese pizza for a slice just the way they want! Another way to get children involved is to use a whole grain English muffin as the crust for a make-your-own mini pizza. Kids will be so excited to make their very own pizza. Give it a try!

Oatmeal Month

Not only is oatmeal yummy, it is a great sensory bin filler for young children. Add some common kitchen utensils, like measuring cups, bowls, and spoons, and it becomes a fun way for children to practice their fine motor skills. Check out ICN’s CNRB for a variety of oatmeal recipes that you can pick from throughout the month. Remember, oatmeal is a creditable grain in the CACFP.

Soup Month

January is the perfect time for soups, so why not celebrate National Soup Month. Soups can nourish the body and help us stay warm, too. The book Stone Soup by Marcia Brown is a great read any day but especially when soup is on the menu. There are lots of yummy recipes in the CNRB, and they all list the CACFP creditable components!

Get Recipes on the Child Nutrition Recipe Box

What’s in Season for January

Every vegetable and fruit has its season–a season when it is ripe and plentiful and when it may cost less. In-season produce also tastes fresher. Each month this section will feature several in-season fruits and vegetables. Consider including some of this produce in your menus this month.

  • Fruit: January is the season for citrus! Lemons, oranges, and grapefruit are all in season this month. Citrus fruits are not only colorful and flavorful, they are good for you! They can be eaten in sections or sliced into smiles for easy finger food for kids. Their juice can be squeezed into water for a hint of flavor. Let’s enjoy all the flavors and colors of citrus this month.
  • Vegetables: Beets, turnips, and celery root—yes, all root vegetables are in season. Leafy vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and collards are in season too. Collards are especially sturdy and are considered good luck by many for the New Year! Did you know cauliflower comes in all sorts of festive colors like purple, orange, and light green? The color is all-natural, and the taste is the same as white cauliflower but with more nutritional benefits.

Food Facts for Kids

Let’s focus on oranges!

  • Oranges are in the citrus family.
  • 85% of oranges grown are used for juice.
  • There are over 600 varieties of oranges worldwide.
  • Gardeners can use orange peels as a natural slug repellent.
  • Oranges have a high amount of vitamin C.

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The New Year brings an opportunity for all of us to change things up and do things differently. Apply this thinking to the food you offer children and how flavor and nourishment are presented. CACFP menus and practices set the table for children’s lifelong eating habits. Let’s get the kids involved by incorporating food themes, adding seasonal fruits and vegetables to your menu, and by chatting up the food facts for kids.

Next Month – Share the Love of Good Nutrition

Look for smaller posts that will be added throughout the month to keep you tuned in with noteworthy CACFP information.

New Dietary Guidelines for Americans are out, and for the first time, there are recommendations for infant feeding! Look for more to come on this.

References:

Institute of Child Nutrition. (2021). Child nutrition recipe box.
https://theicn.org/cnrb

Science Kids. (2020, April 11). Fun orange facts for kids.
https://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/food/oranges.html

University of Nebraska—Lincoln. (2021). Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources UNL Food.
https://food.unl.edu/