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Child Care Meal Quality Forums

preschool shineChild Care Meal Quality Forums

The California Department of Education (CDE) is offering four Child Care Meal Quality Forums statewide. Each forum will focus on enhancing the nutrition environment of early child care programs through improved food preparation and service using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Meal Pattern.

The forums will highlight healthy menu planning, food purchasing, food preparation, and safety. Participants will be exposed to a variety of recipes and techniques to assist their creation of meals that will bolster health and wellness.

These forums provide a unique platform where cooks from early child care programs will engage in culinary techniques in a professional kitchen environment.  All attendees will receive a variety of tools and resources that can immediately be utilized in the day care home or child care center. For more information regarding the forum, please refer to the table of contents below.

Table of Contents    

Dates and Locations







Saturday, February 7, 2015 8 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Clovis Institute of Technology
564 W. Herndon Ave.
Clovis, CA 93612
Register here
Santa Monica Saturday, March 28, 2015  8 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Art Institute of California - Los Angeles
2900 31st Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Register here
San Diego  Saturday, April 25, 2015  8 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Art Institute of California – San Diego
7650 Mission Valley Rd.
San Diego, CA 92108

Register here



This forum offers participants an opportunity to help chart a new future for our children by showcasing how to make early childhood programs “SHINE.” Attendees will be provided with tools, resources, and ideas that can be implemented immediately. Time will also be devoted to hands-on food preparation with an eye toward meeting nutritional guidelines and utilizing the CACFP Meal Pattern to promote nutrition in early child care programs.

Time  Agenda Item
8:00 a.m. 


8:20 a.m.  Introduction and Welcome
Facilitators: CDE and WestEd staff
8:40 a.m. 

CACFP Meal Pattern
Facilitator: Jennifer McNeil

9:30 a.m. Break
9:45 a.m.  Meal Planning and Production
Facilitators: Jennifer McNeil and Chef Ryan Douglas or Chef Bethany Markee
11:30 a.m.  Lunch (off-site and on your own)
12:30 p.m.  Hands-On Culinary Techniques
Facilitators: Chef Ryan Douglas or Chef Bethany Markee
2:30 p.m.  Summary/Closing/Evaluation
Facilitators: Jennifer McNeil, WestEd and CDE staff
3:00 p.m.  End of Forum


Session Descriptions

• CACFP Meal Pattern
The USDA CACFP Meal Pattern is the structure for all meals served in programs participating in the CACFP. This session will provide an overview of the CACFP Meal Pattern and introduce the USDA Crediting Handbook for the CACFP.

• Meal Planning and Production
Meal planning does not have to be complicated! Planning meals requires a small investment of time, but can reap great rewards. This session will present a variety of topics including the basic considerations for menu planning, introduction of flavor profiles, farm to preschool, food purchasing, and more!

• Culinary Techniques
Calling all cooks! The kitchen is the place that provides endless opportunities to create healthful meals for young children. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook, you will learn something new in this session. Our professional chef will feature several food items and demonstrate basic technical skills essential to working smarter, not harder, in the kitchen. With guidance, participants will perfect their knife skills while using the freshest ingredients.

Speakers At-A-Glance

Would you like to learn more about our presenters? Below is some background information on the qualified speakers for the Child Care Meal Quality Forums.

Jennifer McNeil, RDN, SNS, is the Director of Child Nutrition Services for Encinitas Union School District. She has worked previously as the Assistant Food Service Director for the Hemet Unified School District and as the consulting dietitian for the Hemet Preschool Head Start and the CACFP. Ms. McNeil has led her schools to 13 Gold Awards of Distinction through the USDA’s Healthier US Schools Challenge.

Chef Ryan Douglas is the Executive Chef and Catering Supervisor for the Riverside Unified School District. In addition, he is involved in recipe development at the Riverside School District Culinary Center. Chef Ryan has more than more than twenty-nine years of institutional cooking, kitchen management, and senior administrative management experience.

Chef Bethany Markee is a school foods chef instructor for the Orfalea Foundation and is the full time Director at the Solvang Elementary School’s Farm to School Lunch Tray cafeteria program. Her school lunch program received a Golden Carrot Award from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and has been featured on numerous television, print, and Web outlets.  Chef Bethany has over 28 years of experience in the restaurant industry. 

Target Audience

The primary target participants for the Child Care Meal Quality Forums are child care center cooks, family day care home providers, and individuals involved in menu planning and food purchasing. Making changes or improving the meals served at an early learning site requires a team effort. We encourage child care centers to send a team of two who are involved in menu planning, food purchasing, or food preparation. If you are a day care home sponsoring organization, invite up to two providers plus a monitor to attend.

Professional Growth Hours and Certificate

Professional growth hours are required to renew a Child Development Permit. Participants attending the full-day forum program will receive 5.0 professional growth hours to help reach professional development goals. Participants will also receive a Preschools SHINE Forum Certificate of Completion. Retain your certificate on file as documentation that you have completed the forum.

Cost, Enrollment, and Registration

Cost: The registration fee is $25.00 per person and must be received in WestEd’s office at least one week prior to the scheduled forum. The fee covers the cost of a Preschools SHINE toolkit and a light morning snack. The toolkit includes a variety of materials including sample menus, recipes, a chef’s knife, and other resources.

Enrollment: Enrollment is limited to 25-30 people per training location. If you are sending a team, please limit the size of the team to the amount indicated in the Target Audience section.

Registration: Pre-registration is required and will be processed on a first-come, first served basis. Walk-ins may not be allowed to participate in the forum activities due to space availability. Enrollment is completed online. For successful online registration, here are a few things to remember:

  • Obtain your agency’s five-digit Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) number beforehand.
  • Each person planning to attend the forum must register independently. The maximum quantity that can be selected on the Eventbrite registration Web page is locked at “1”.
  • Print your confirmation notice and bring it with you to the forum.
  • Credit card payment can be made on the Eventbrite registration Web page. Personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, or purchase orders payable to WestEd will also be accepted as payment. Payment must be received at the address listed below at least one week prior to the scheduled training date.

WestEd Center for Child and Family Studies
Attention: Maria Lazaro
333 N. Lantana , Suite 277
Camarillo, CA 93010

To register, please do the following:

  • Select the registration link that matches the location where you will attend the forum (see chart below).
  • Read the Event Details section carefully on the registration site and complete the registration form.
  • If paying online by credit card, print a copy of the registration confirmation you will receive by email immediately after registering and bring it to the forum.
  • If paying by personal check, cashier’s check, money order, or purchase order, print two copies of the registration confirmation that you will receive by e-mail immediately after registering. Retain one copy and bring it to the forum. Mail the other copy to the WestEd address listed above with your payment.

Location Registration Link



Santa Monica

San Diego


What to Wear

To ensure your safety in the kitchen, dress comfortably and wear closed-toed shoes without slippery soles. Hair nets will be provided at the forum.

Cancellation and Refunds

No refunds will be issued for this event. We recognize that circumstances can occur that affect your intent to attend the forum. If you cannot attend the forum, you may send another person from your agency. To send a replacement, please contact Maria Lazaro by email at, or by phone at 805-465-4464 or 800-770-6339, weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


For information regarding dates and locations, cost, online registration, sending a replacement, or canceling, please contact Maria Lazaro by email at, or by phone at 805-465-4464 or 800-770-6339, weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

For general information regarding the forum agenda, contact Courtney Thornburg, Nutrition Education Specialist at the CDE, by phone at 916-324-0578, or by email at