Date of Publication

Spring 1-17-2018


Introduction. Partnering with Hunger Free Vermont, an organization that works to end hunger and malnutrition across the state, we investigated the nutritional value of the packed meals parents provide for their children in early childcare. The USDA's "My Plate" resource was used as a measure to assess variety, dividing foods into five groups: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruits, and protein. The results will help Hunger Free Vermont design nutrition education materials for childcare centers to provide to the families they serve.

Methods. Online surveys were distributed, asking parents to report the foods they recently provided for their children in packed lunches, to rate how 'healthy' they thought those lunches were, and to note any barriers they experience to packing healthy foods.

Results. Survey results showed that the average number of sweets packed by parents who had low confidence in their ability to pack healthy meals was significantly higher than the average number packed by parents with high confidence (p < 0.05). Additionally, the total number of cited barriers was significantly higher in parents who had low confidence in their ability to pack healthy meals (p < 0.01).

Conclusions. Many parents cited time constraints and ‘picky’ children as barriers to providing healthy meals, with concerns about the expense of healthy items and lack of childcare for shopping or food-prep time following close behind. In the future, education materials that address children’s unhealthy food preferences or further investigations into barriers to providing healthy lunches may facilitate development of resources for Vermont families.


Alison Howe

UVM Larner College of Medicine

Katy Davis

Hunger Free Vermont


Early and Middle Childhood, Nutrition and Weight Status

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Supporting Vermont Families in Packing Healthy Lunches for Children in Childcare