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First 2,000 Days

First 2,000 Days

Laying the foundation for a healthy lifestyle.


The importance of plant-based, whole-food nutrition does not end with labor and delivery; many organs have periods of plasticity that extend beyond pregnancy, the brain being the best example. Approximately 90 percent of brain development occurs by age 5, with good nutrition playing a key role. Food preferences are also established and solidified during windows of opportunity within the first two years of life, which is why it's important to train a child's taste buds to prefer plant-based whole foods, especially vegetables, when they're young.

The Vitamix Foundation is partnering with early learning programs and other organizations to engage parents, teachers, and children in laying the foundation for a healthy lifestyle through plant-based whole foods.

The Opportunity

Food preferences and habits are established and solidified early in life, and thus have a significant impact on the child’s development and future health status.

On average, 90 percent of young children do not consume the USDA recommendation of daily vegetables, and nearly 99 percent do not consume the recommended amount of whole grains. Yet an astounding 99 percent of young children exceed the recommended amount of solid fats and added sugar.

This is a critical time period and window of opportunity to establish healthy lifetime eating habits. In January 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement supporting how critical maternal prenatal nutrition and the child's nutrition is in the first 2 years of life.

Nearly 60% of children are cared for in early care and education settings outside of their home. We also see, from a number of studies, the impact and importance of early-care and education professionals – as both educators and role models for the children in their care.

Where are we Investing

We are investing in the development and testing of an online professional development module called An ECE Professional's Impact: Nourish Yourself/Create Healthy Futures. The goal of the module is to help Early Care and Education (ECE) professionals improve their knowledge, attitude, and behavior regarding their own health and wellbeing, especially as it relates to healthy eating. The four-hour module will help early-care and education professionals enhance their personal health and wellbeing, in turn boosting their effectiveness in serving as a role model for the children they teach.

Phase I of this initiative is a truly collaborative effort funded by the Vitamix Foundation involving the following institutions, all of which are recipients of the grant:

Better Kid Care
The Pennsylvania State University

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)
School of Public Health

The Centers for Families and Children, Cleveland

Better Kid Care has developed and will distribute the module, which was piloted at The Centers for Families and Children's seven early-learning sites. The UTHealth School of Public Health team, led by Shreela V. Sharma, Ph.D., is evaluating the pilot. Deborah Lewison-Grant, executive director of FoodFight NYC, provided consultative support to Better Kid Care.

We are currently exploring the potential of a Phase II for this work that would expand the testing to a broader audience and include some additions to the approach.

What's on Our Radar

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut “is a non-profit research and public policy organization devoted to promoting solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias through research and policy. The Rudd Center serves as a leader in building broad-based consensus to change diet and activity patterns, while holding industry and government agencies responsible for safeguarding public health. The Center serves as a leading research institution and clearinghouse for resources that add to our understanding of the complex forces affecting how we eat, how we stigmatize people with obesity, and how we can change.”

The reason they are on our radar is their work in two of their six areas of focus (Food Marketing and Schools, Families, and Communities) contribute important insights to our ongoing efforts related to the early learning environment.

There's a new report titled The Impact of the First 1,000 Days on Childhood Obesity by Healthy Eating Research (HER), a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program.

"The first 1,000 days, or the period from conception through age 2, is increasingly recognized as a critical period for the development of childhood obesity and its adverse consequences. This issue brief is based on two review papers that examined evidence on risk factors for developing childhood obesity and interventions that could prevent childhood obesity later in life. The evidence is presented on risk factors from conception to delivery, and from birth through age 2. Several risk factors were consistently associated with later childhood overweight: higher maternal pre-pregnancy BMI; maternal excess weight gain during pregnancy; prenatal tobacco exposure; high infant birth weight; and high infant weight gain. The evidence on interventions includes those conducted during pregnancy, those starting at pregnancy and continuing after birth, and those starting after birth but before age 2. Only a small number of effective early-life interventions for childhood obesity were found, and most interventions focused on individual or family-level behavior changes. Interventions focusing on multiple risk factors and delivered across a variety of settings may help reduce childhood obesity risk."

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