Early Care and Education

75 percent of Virginia’s children under the age of five spend time in care outside of the home. Almost half of these children are in care for up to 12 hours a day.¹ 15 percent of these children live in poverty. Improving Early Care and Education (ECE) environments helps children develop lifelong healthy habits.²

Vulnerable populations, including children, suffer from higher rates of overweight and obesity. Programs like SNAP, WIC, and CACFP have helped lower these rates in recent years. Yet, there is still work to be done. In 2016, Virginia WIC's obesity rate for preschoolers, 2-4 years of age, was 15.3 percent. This ranked Virginia as 12th in the United States for obesity rates.³ 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified ECEs as a great setting to start learning healthy habits. These habits should address nutrition, infant feeding, physical activity, and screen time.

The Virginia Department of Health is committed to improving  Healthy Eating and Physical Activity  (HEPA) standards and quality in ECEs.

Virginia’s Breastfeeding Friendly Early Care Recognition Program

 The Early Care Breastfeeding Friendly Recognition Program was established with Child Care Aware-Virginia, Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, and Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition. We recognize early care sites in meeting five breastfeeding friendly standards.

  • environmental
  • family support
  • infant feeding
  • professional development
  • breastfeeding policy

Learn more information on Child Care Aware-Virginia’s site. Additional resources can be found below.

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NEW Breastfeeding Standards Toolkit

Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment in Child Care (GO NAPSACC)

GO NAPSACC is an online platform that supports child care providers in improving the health of young children. The program focuses on creating policy, systems, and environmental changes. The platform has seven modules that help providers assess their health environments.  We have partnered with Child Care Aware-Virginia to offer free access to GO NAPSACC for early care providers.

Resources for early care providers, public health professionals, parents and families, or volunteers who are interested in supporting HEPA standards in Virginia’s early care programs: 

  1. Caring For Our Children National Guidelines for Obesity Prevention in Early Care 
  2. Increasing Access to Water in Early Care: Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth Rev Your Bev ECE
  3. Farm to Early Care: National Farm to School and ECE Network and Virginia's Farm to CACFP 
  4. CACFP in Virginia 
  5. Team Nutrition Child Care Resources: recipes, training materials for CACFP, nutrition education lesson and activities, etc. 
  6. Nemours Healthy Kids, Healthy Future: tools and resources for young children to get a healthy start; resources are targeted to early care providers, trainers, and state and local leaders 


¹ Child Care Aware of America. (2018). 2017 State child care facts in the state of Virginia
² Kids Count Data Center. (2018). Children in poverty by age group – Virginia
³ Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2019). State of Childhood Obesity-Obesity Rates Among WIC Participants 2-4