A child care center in Rolla became the third in the state Thursday to earn the status of a Missouri Eat Smart Child Care facility.

A child care center in Rolla became the third in the state Thursday to earn the status of a Missouri Eat Smart Child Care facility.

Creative Kids Learning Center in Rolla received the recognition Thursday morning by the state of Missouri. According to Trish McCormack, director of Creative Kids, the local child care center also is the only one south of Jefferson City to receive the advanced level.

Through the Missouri Eat Smart program, child care facilities are challenged to improve their meal service by following recommended standards that are above the minimum requirements.

The minimum level of the Eat Smart guidelines is the same as the current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meal pattern requirements and Missouri State Licensing requirements. All licensed child care facilities must at least meet the minimum level.

The intermediate level guidelines are more healthful than the minimum level and the advanced level is more healthful than the intermediate.

“It’s been a long time coming,” McCormack said of receiving the honor, noting that it has taken about seven months to achieve the advanced level.

McCormack said to earn the recognition, Creative Kids staff had to come up with healthy menus, save labels and recipes of food served to the children and have teachers complete specialized training through the Eat Smart program. The menus were sent to the state, which recommended changes to Creative Kids.

At Creative Kids, children are served family style and the same kinds of foods are served in different ways, such as raw or cooked vegetables and fruits. At birthday parties or celebrations, no cupcakes or cake are served. Instead, healthy choices are offered.

While the cost of food has gone up since Creative Kids switched to the new nutrition program, McCormack said the benefits have increased.

Sarah Gaines, MS, RD, LD, a nutritional consultant with Community Food and Nutrition Assistance through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said part of the Eat Smart program is designed to help prevent childhood obesity.

“It’s completely voluntary, so the child care facilities that take part are taking their own step forward,” Gaines said.

The Eat Smart initiative started two years ago in Missouri. Gaines said she hopes that the award to Creative Kids encourages other facilities to take the Eat Smart challenge.

Gaines made a small presentation at Creative Kids Thursday and presented a certificate and banner announcing the local center’s achievement as an Eat Smart Child Care facility. Rolla Mayor Bill Jenks III also attended.

For more information about the program, visit www.health.mo.gov/living/wellness/nutrition/eatsmartguidelines/