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Healthy Meal Kits for Healthy Kids: Supporting Family Child Care with Meal Kit Deliveries

To create a business plan to partner with a meal kit delivery company to support family child care with home deliveries of nutritious foods.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

We have met a colleague at a similar nonprofit organization in another state who is also hoping to do something working with meal kits. Like QCC, they also have a shared services alliance. We will be staying in contact to share information as we both work on our ideas. That is a great outcome for me with regard to this process.

Name or Organization

Quality Care for Children, Inc.

Geography

Atlanta Georgia

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD

Type

  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Family child care providers do it all -- care for and educate the children, manage their home business, and prepare nutritious snacks and meals for the children. It is important that young children, during this period of rapid brain development, get the nutrition they need and develop healthy eating habits. Family child care providers do not have the scale that allows them to work with a commercial food vendor. Typically they do their own shopping on weekends. Partnering with a meal kit delivery service could save them time, create variety in menus and introduce children to new foods.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

QCC plans to explore a partnership with a meal kit delivery service, for example, Hello Fresh, which is headquartered in Atlanta. We would like to determine if a meal kit delivery service developed especially for family child care providers, can meet these following criteria: -- create tasty meals and snacks that meet or exceed USDA requirement for the child care food program -- increase the variety in provider menus and introduce children to new foods -- facilitate a provider's teaching children about foods through activity guides that are developed for the meals/foods included in the meal kit -- stay within the provider's food budget -- save a provider time -- offer healthy meals that can be made in advance or in a crock pot QCC would conduct focus groups with family child care providers to understand their needs, requirements, expectations and level of interest. Assuming there is interest among providers, we would recruit a meal kit delivery service willing to explore this idea and share with them what we learned from the focus groups. If the idea seems to have potential for providers and the meal kit delivery company, we would begin developing a business plan. QCC would also explore funding strategies with the meal kit company that might lower the cost to family child care providers. For example, an opportunity for their regular customers to make monthly donations to offset the cost of meals for low income children (in family child care.)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

QCC works with over 500 family child care providers as a sponsor of the child care food program. We understand their challenges in food preparation and menu planning, and the time they invest in shopping for foods and preparing meals. Meal preparation can be a challenge for providers who should be focused on the children. They need healthy options that can be prepared ahead of time or in a crock pot the day of. We would like to find a fun way to support them as chiefs and as teachers.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

QCC has had this idea for some time, but has not had the resources to explore it in depth. The answers to the questions of what we will do and how will be determined in developing the business plan. QCC has worked with graduate students at the Emory University business school in the past and we have a good relationship with faculty who place students for internships. We would seek graduate students in the business school to work on developing the business plan. We also have a contact at Hello Fresh, headquartered in Atlanta, and they would be the first meal kit business we would approach about partnering on this project. QCC works with many family child care providers through our child care food program, early head start project, and technical assistance for quality improvement. We have experience conducting focus groups with providers and typically have good attendance. Either QCC, or QCC in conjunction with Emory students, would conduct focus groups with providers to engage their interest and concerns about meal kits. If the program moves forward, QCC would develop educational materials to be included in the meal kits. Meal time offers teachable moments for providers. We are imagining the moment when the meal kits arrives as an exciting time for the children who can explore the contents of the meal kit with the provider. Educational materials and activity suggestions related to the fruits and vegetables on the kit, including perhaps how children can help with meal preparation, could be contained in the meal kit. QCC's experience working with family child care providers in the child care food program makes us aware of shortcomings in provider menus. While they are meeting the USDA requirements, we would like for them to serve more variety, more fresh fruits and vegetables, and engage the children more in learning about foods. Our biggest concern in this project is whether we can make the meal kits affordable to family child care providers. We would engage the meal kit delivery company in developing a strategy to offsets provider costs for the meal kits. QCC has experience developing and managing corporate partnerships. This could be a win win opportunity for both providers and the company. Family child care providers get healthy foods and menus delivered to their door, and the meal kit company gets an corporate/social responsibility strategy tied to their core business.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Family child care providers and the young children in their care will benefit. This program should save provider's shopping and menu planning time, help them to provide young children with the nutritious snacks and meals they need, and teach children about foods and healthy eating habits. It would also help to recruit an additional corporate partner to support young children and child care providers and provide the corporate partner with a corporate/social responsibility opportunity. QCC has worked with family child care providers for more than 30 years, including as a sponsor of the USDA child care food program. We have extensive experience in the child nutrition and early education fields, developed a health and nutrition manual for family child care providers in the 1990s that was used nationally by child care food program sponsors serving family child care, and are currently engaged in a statewide Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative in Georgia.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

The foods that children eat in their early years impact their healthy growth and development and help them to form good eating habits for a lifetime. If the meal kit delivery idea is successful in GA, it could be offered nationwide to family child care providers. If we are successful in getting corporate support, it would increase the private investment in quality child care.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

The majority of family child care providers in GA serve low income children (and qualify for the child care food program at the highest tier.) This program will not only ensure that children from low income families get nutritious meals, but will introduce them to new foods and help them develop healthy eating habits.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

We are not aware of other organizations using/developing meal kits for family child care providers. Through this process we have communicated with another nonprofit who is also looking at doing something similar. We hope to stay in touch with them throughout this process to share what we are learning and to learn from their experience. We believe this is relatively new model (meal kit delivery) being applied to a new user group (family child care providers). Within the Shared Services movement we have made headway in delivering cost savings on food expenses to child care centers, but, because family child care purchases are so small, we have not found a way to provide them similar value. This may be the answer. In that regard, you could say it is a new business model. In addition to cost and time savings, we also see this as a way to improve meals and add educational value to meal time.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

If successful in Georgia, meal kits could be made available to family child care providers nationally.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

We will explore the feasibility of the idea as a part of developing the business plan. QCC introduced the idea to family child care providers in our Early Head Start program. They were interested and excited but only if the meals met USDA guidelines and were affordable. Member of QCC's Board of Trustees are supportive of the idea. Most board members represent major corporations in Atlanta. Board volunteers are interested in engaging in this planning process and/or recruiting corporate staff to participate.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

We feel it is too soon in the process to speculate about the feasibility. This would be something we would explore as part of the business plan. Based on our conversations with family child care providers, we are aware of certain criteria that would need to be met in order for us to be successful, e.g., inclusion of crock pot/slow cooker menu items, in compliance with USDA child care food program criteria. We don't think these would be a challenge. The proper price point would also be critical. We would need to get as close as possible to the USDA reimbursement rate and would hope that partnering with a high volume meal kit delivery service like Hello Fresh would help keep the cost down. There might also be ways to leverage our nonprofit status to make partnering with us beneficial to a meal kit delivery business. In our experience working with family child care providers and introducing other new ways of operating, we know that they can be slow to adopt new ideas. We will not just be selling a new product but will also be asking providers to change their behaviors. This was one of the lessons we learned in implementing our shared services alliance. Even when providers have the opportunity to save time and money, they sometimes prefer to do things as they have always done them. (This is not just a characteristic of family child care providers. This is true for many people who don't quickly embrace change.) We realize that in order to be successful we will need to not only offer providers something that they want and that will add value, but we will also need a well formulated strategy that includes recruiting early adopters who have strong reputations in the provider community and a well thought out marketing plan with strategies to support behavior change. Providers will be instrumental in developing this plan. In our favor, we have an excellent reputation in the provider community and strong relationships with many family child care providers. They know that we listen to them and are responsive to their needs. We are typically able to get their participation in focus groups, get high response rates on surveys we send them, and feel we can get a significant number of providers to participate in testing and prototyping.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

Quality Care for Children always employs the principles of human centered design in our work. We know that there is really no other way to be successful. We believe that one of the challenges in how organizations and policy makes have approached child care quality improvement has been a failure to understand the family child care provider's experience as a business owner/operator, an early educator, a chef/nutritionist, and often a safety net for families. Actions or polices that have a positive impact on one of these spheres can sometimes have a negative impact on the others. We listen and learn from providers and take pride in our ability to convey their experiences and perspectives (and often potential unintended consequences) to our colleagues in the early education field and to policy makers in GA. Critical to our feasibility study and business plan will be provider voices and perspectives gathered through focus groups, surveys, and early testing on the concept. We have used this approach in developing other programs at QCC, including the biggest addition to our core services, The Georgia Alliance for Quality Child Care (our shared services program). Throughout this process, we are aware that the idea may change significantly. The challenges we hope to address through the meal kit solution are ones articulated to us by providers. However, while we are exploring the idea of meal kits, providers may take us in a different direction toward other solutions that meet their needs better. This can be the most exciting part of new program/service development.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

In 1979, Nancy Travis founded an office of Save the Children with a vision that every young child would receive quality early learning. In 1998, the organization became Quality Care for Children (QCC), an independent Atlanta-based nonprofit providing child care food programs statewide and child care resource and referral services to 10 metro Atlanta counties. Since then, QCC has expanded its programs and service area to 46 counties, established the first statewide child care referral service, and established a statewide shared services alliance for child care programs. QCC employs a robust portfolio of programs and services and strong partnerships with child care experts and organizations. QCC is a leading resource for parents, child care providers and community leaders in Georgia seeking information and support to provide excellent care and secure the quality early learning experiences that all infants and children – regardless of race, gender, or economic background – deserve. Led by Pam Tatum since 2004, QCC helps more than 100,000 children – primarily from low-income families – benefit from high-quality early education each year. We accomplish this by focusing on CREATING QUALITY (providing training and resources to child care providers to increase the overall quality of care) and ENSURING ACCESS (helping parents access affordable, quality care for their children to ensure the best early learning experiences). Over the years, QCC’s programs have been showcased nationally as best practices. QCC has received numerous awards including finalist for Carter Presidential Award for work in building the supply of quality child care in metro Atlanta’s Latino/Hispanic community, and the Doris Duke Foundation’s Exemplary Program Award for work in providing family support through child care settings. In addition, QCC received the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s 2013 Managing for Excellence Award, in recognition of the leadership and management practices that drive our success. One element of quality child care for young children is nutritious meals and establishing good eating habits. QCC has worked with family child care providers as a sponsor in the child care food program for more than 30 years. We are currently engaged in a statewide Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative working with child care centers and family child care providers. The meal kits idea emerged in a discussion of family child care challenges (primarily time and money), the inability of large food vendors to meet their needs, and our desire to provide them more value for their shared services alliance membership. Too often family child care providers and their needs are neglected. They lack purchasing power as singular small businesses. Their long work hours make coming together to find solutions to their challenges difficult. But they are also very resourceful. If we can engage them in designing a solution we have a strong likelihood of success.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

We have staff with expertise in early learning and child nutrition. We have a relationship with Emory University that will allow us to get interns from the business school to help develop the business plan. We would like to be further along in understanding what might work from a child care provider perspective before beginning conversations with the meal kit delivery company.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We are always interested in learning from others and would be particularly interested in learning from organizations that have launched new ventures with corporate partners.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

Business planning.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

www.qualitycareforchildren.org https://twitter.com/QCCGeorgia https://www.facebook.com/QCCGeorgia https://www.flickr.com/photos/124105513@N06/sets/with/72157649175287389 https://www.linkedin.com/company/1045183/

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

5 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Town Square IL
Team

Hi Pam-
Our project (TownSquareIL.org) is an online learning community for family child care providers that is Illinois based but accessible anywhere. Your idea is really exciting and could be such a help for family child care providers who, as you said, "do it all"! We have links to all sorts of family child care relevant resources as well as content we have created and professional development. If you have suggestions for great resources for FCC providers around nutrition we would love to check them out as possible resources to include on our site.
Thanks!
Mary

Photo of Pam
Team

Thanks Mary. Great to hear that you believe this would be helpful to providers. I am very interested in your online community and will check it out. We have a shared services alliance that includes family child care providers, are sponsors of the USDA child care food program for fcc, have an Early Head Start model that delivers EHS services through family child care, and have a farm to early care and education programs that fcc providers participate in. I am happy to connect you to our nutrition department and also wold love to learn more about your online community. I will check out the link, and would love to connect through email for a deeper conversation. My email address is pam.tatum@qualitycareforchildren.org.

Photo of Tony Hill
Team

This is a beautiful and elegant solution to a what's become a systemic, unacknowledged crisis. I hope you guys can figure out how to make this work. Good luck!

Photo of Barbara null
Team

Hi Pam,
We in Vermont are very interested in your idea and are working on our own version of the concept- posted here https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/ecprize/submission/nutritious-ingredients-and-recipes-for-brain-building-in-early-care-and-learning-programs

We are developing a shared services model for child care programs and food delivery will be a part of that.
We are weighing the possibilities of food kits - such as you are suggesting - or delivery of a week's worth of food that would not be measured out by meals, but would come with instructions and menus. Is the fact that Hello Fresh is based in Atlanta a key factor in your decision to go with the kit idea? Did you consider other formats for the food delivery package?

Thanks!
Barbara from Vermont

Photo of Pam
Team

Hi Barbara,
I look forward to checking out your submission. We also have a shared services model (GA Alliance for Quality Child Care). Currently we have a couple of commercial food vendors who are providing discounts to our members but as you know these are impossible for family child care providers to take advantage of. We are trying to get to Hello Fresh right now!! Are you planning to assemble the kits yourself? I would love to learn about other formats you are considering.
Thank you,
Pam