03.05.02e - Center Meal Service Policy and Procedure

Center Meal Service Policy and Procedure Policy Number and Last Update

For All Age Groups:

  1. The cooks bring sufficient food for first and some second servings from the kitchen, with a complete set of small serving bowls, serving spoons and pitchers for each table. They also bring tableware and napkins for each child and adult, as well as a few extras, in case of accidents. Kitchen staff need to bring the food at the same time each day so that the children will not have to wait without anything to do. Children should never be seated before the food is in the room, so that if there is an unavoidable delay teachers can sing or occupy the children while they wait.
  2. Teaching teams combine a quiet transitional activity with washing hands and setting the table, with one teacher in charge of each.
  3. Teachers and children sit at the table together, with 1 adult and 4 to 8 children at each. In order for classrooms to have enough staff to execute this step, all staff who eat center food will eat with the children.
  4. SERVING: There will be no recitations before beginning to serve food, nor will it be necessary for everyone to wait for the teacher to begin eating.
    1. For 3, 4 and 5-year-olds - Teachers model and teach children to serve themselves, then pass the bowl to the next person. The teacher will help the children learn to serve a reasonable amount, how to pass, and how to pour milk. All children must serve every food, in some amount however small, but they need not eat it. Teachers do not urge or coerce children to taste foods. An occasional exception to self-service may be made for hot soups, or other dishes that the children could dangerously spill.
    2. For 2-year-olds - Teachers and children sit at the table together (at the same time). From their seat, teachers assist the children in serving and passing finger-foods and others that are easy for them to serve. Then the teacher, still seated in her place, serves the children those foods that are too difficult for them to manage. In no case does the teacher hold the child's hand as he serves.
    3. For toddlers - Teachers, having already set the table, sit with the children. From their seated position, they serve the children all foods. (Per Illinois Licensing Standards: Children under two years of age shall not be served candies, small berries, raisins, corn kernels, raw carrots, whole grapes, hot dogs, nuts, seeds, popcorn, raw peas or peanut butter, as these foods may cause choking. The cooks should not deliver these foods to the young toddler classroom. However, if they do, the teachers must not serve these foods to those children under two. Cooked carrots, peas, berries and corn mashed or pureed are allowed.)
      Only in extraordinary circumstances do the teachers rise from the table during meal time. Clean-up supplies should be accessible to the older children so that if they spill milk they can get a sponge and clean it up themselves, with minimum interruption of the meal.
  5. Teachers model and teach good table manners and pleasant conversation during the meal. Meal times should be cheerful, relaxed times for teachers and children to enjoy good food and each other's company. They are also good times for children to develop their language skills in natural conversation. Teachers need not feel that they must use this time to give lessons about food or any other topic.
  6. Ample time should be allowed for the meal, and children are required to stay at the table until the teachers excuse them. However, when more than half of the children are finished, it is time for one teacher to get up and clean her place, allowing those children who are ready to do the same. Then these people can begin brushing teeth while the others finish eating. Children should be allowed to remain at the table as long as they need to, and a few can be left alone at the table while the second teacher joins tooth-brushing and getting ready for naps.
  7. Many centers prefer to serve afternoon snack buffet-style, by laying out the food before nap is over, and allowing children to take their snack and sit down to eat it as they get up from their naps. This permits children to wake up and eat at their own pace.