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New partnership to foster healthier food habits in early childhood

Montreal, December 10, 2008 A group of nutritionists from Extenso, the Universit de Montral's human nutrition referral centre, is teaming up with chefs from the Institut de tourisme et d'htellerie du Qubec (ITHQ) to provide culinary expertise to Quebec daycares and early childhood centres. The goal is to help childcare centres develop healthier and tastier meals and snacks for kids.

The nutrition team will provide its expertise to 100 childcare centres, half of which will be recruited from disadvantaged communities from across the province, free of charge. Researchers will begin by visiting interested childcare centres to analyze their current food preparation methods and to meet with cooks and educators. New cooking approaches for healthier cuisine and an optimum quality/price ratio will be jointly developed with childcare centres to reflect their needs.

"Our main objective is to bolster knowledge in nutrition, food practices and culinary techniques among childcare facilities," says Marie Marquis, director of the project and professor in the Universit de Montral's Department of Nutrition. "Healthy lifestyles and tastes develop in early childhood. Given that nearly seven out of 10 children today attend childcare, these sites are the best place to introduce new approached to food."

A three-part project The project will involve three phases over three years: Part I will address the kitchen managers of childcare centres in winter 2009, Part II will target childcare educators in 2010; Part III will address parents in 2011.

The research team will share recipe collections, training videos, menus and tips with managers of childcare food services. A permanent call centre will be established to provide customized culinary and nutritional information to participating childcare facilities.

All research will be conducted by the Universit de Montral Department of Nutrition. The non-profit organization Extenso, the Universit de Montral's Referral Centre on Human Nutrition, will oversee the project with the assistance of the ITHQ Foundation.

"Currently there is very little information on the food services of Quebec childcare facilities," says nutritionist Nathalie Jobin of the Universit de Montral and Extenso. "We have a lot to learn from the childcare centres over the next three years. By learning about needs and restrictions of childcare managers, we can develop tailor-made tools that will contribute to early childhood nutrition."


Contact: Julie Gazaille
University of Montreal

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