While Ward focused on foods served, Sara Benjamin Neelon focused on foods consumed. She explored the various methods that have been used in the past, as well as some potentially new methods, to assess food and nutrient intake both in and out of child care. Based on comments made at various times throughout the workshop, other speakers and participants seemed to generally agree with Benjamin Neelon’s assessment that the preferred method for collecting data to assess nutrient intake is direct observation in the child care setting, coupled with 24-hour dietary recalls1 of intake both inside and outside the care facility.
Finally, Beth Dixon considered the different types of dietary data that can be collected in child care settings and elaborated on the trade-off between project scope and data detail (i.e., with fixed funding, the larger the scope of a study, the less detailed the dietary data collection). The more detailed the data, the greater the opportunity for accurate comparisons with recommended dietary intakes or meal pattern recommendations. While direct observation provides the greatest level of detail, it is an expensive data collection method, especially because of the labor involved in collecting the data on site by trained observers.
A recurrent theme over the course of the 1-day workshop was the need to be very clear about the desired outcome(s) of a study before developing the methodology—addressing the “what” before the “how.” This is because the “best” method depends on the desired outcome(s). Different methods yield different types of information. This theme was especially prominent in the dialogue summarized in this chapter. For example, the preferred methodology for assessing what children are being served is not necessarily the same as the preferred methodology for assessing what children are actually consuming. Nor are the best methods in one setting necessarily the best methods for another setting. All of the speakers featured in this chapter emphasized the importance of formulating the research question(s) and desired outcome(s) before deciding on which methods, tools, or research design to use.
ADAPTING METHODOLOGY FROM PREVIOUS NATIONAL STUDIES TO ASSESS THE CHILD AND ADULT CARE FOOD PROGRAM2
A useful starting point for considering how to move forward with a nationally representative study of child day care, including CACFP, is to
1The 24-hour recall method involves collecting data on everything consumed by the participant over the previous 24 hours.
2This section summarizes the presentation Adapting Methodology from SNDA and FITS Studies to CACFP by Mary Kay Fox of Mathematica Policy Research.