Approximately 70 per cent of Nova Scotia pre-school children have mothers in the workforce, and most of these children do much of their eating – and learning about eating – outside the home. Only 20 per cent of children are in licensed programs, with the remaining 80% in unlicensed or informal child-care arrangements. Child care providers, both formal and informal, therefore play a critical role in the development of eating habits.
For children in licensed child care programs, the Day Care Act sets out nutrition-related Regulations that centres must follow. Currently the Department of Community Services requires that child care centres have their menu approved by a nutritionist when the centre is first licensed and subsequently on request. In many areas of the province, childcare workshops are offered annually, covering a variety of licensing issues including nutrition and food safety.
In 2004, Public Health Nutritionists and Early Childhood Development Officers participated in an analysis to examine the type and level of provincial food and nutrition support provided to licensed child-care centres. From this analysis, DCS and Health and Wellness recommended an assessment be completed to identify areas to enhance nutrition support to licensed child-care centres.