Barriers and Facilitators to Compliance with a State Healthy Eating Policy in Early Care and Education Centers

Daniel A. Zaltz, Russell R. Pate, Jennifer R. O'Neill, Brian Neelon, Sara E. Benjamin-Neelon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Early care and education (ECE) policies can improve childhood obesity risk factors. We evaluated barriers and facilitators to implementing mandatory nutrition standards for foods provided in South Carolina ECE centers serving low-income children, comparing centers participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) with non-CACFP centers. Methods: We mailed 261 surveys (demographics, policies and practices, barriers and facilitators) to center directors after new state nutrition standards were implemented in South Carolina. We conducted univariate and bivariate analyses to explore relationships between barriers, facilitators, and center-level characteristics, by CACFP status. Results: We received 163 surveys (62% response rate). Centers had a median [interquartile range (IQR)] of 5 (4-7) classrooms and 59 (37.5-89) total children enrolled. More than half (60.1%) of directors reported they were moderately or fully informed about the standards. The most common barriers were food costs (17.8%) and children's food preferences (17.8%). More non-CACFP directors reported food costs as a barrier (28.6% vs. 6.5%, p < 0.001), having to spend additional money on healthier foods (48.8% vs. 28.6%, p = 0.01), and having to provide additional nutrition education to parents (28.6% vs. 11.7%, p = 0.01), compared with CACFP directors. Conclusions: Center directors were generally well informed about the nutrition standards. The most common barriers to implementing the standards were food costs and children's food preferences. Centers participating in CACFP may be in a better position to adhere to new state nutrition standards, as they receive some federal reimbursement for serving healthy foods and may be more accustomed to regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-357
Number of pages9
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • child care
  • healthy eating
  • obesity
  • policy
  • regulations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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