An early adopter of the 5-2-1-0 initiative, Children & Families of Iowa's (CFI) Childhood Development Center now encourages healthy habits among all children, families and staff as part of its culture. 

"The program has helped our center incorporate activity into everyday learning and implement practices to encourage lifelong healthy behaviors,” said Justine Green, director of the center.

5-2-1-0 is a childhood obesity prevention framework that promotes policy and environment changes at child care centers, schools and before- and after-school programs to encourage these daily behaviors: 

  • Eat 5 fruits and vegetables
  • Spend 2 or fewer hours on recreational screen time
  • Get at least 1 hour of physical activity
  • Drink 0 sugary drinks

CFI's Child Development Center has worked with 5-2-1-0 to purchase a balance beam to get kids moving while learning letters and doing math. They changed birthday celebrations to have a dance party, wear a favorite costume or drink healthy smoothies instead of eating sugary treats. Teachers use conversation cards at meal times to talk with kids about food groups and to encourage social interactions. 

“We couldn’t have made these changes without the funding and staff support of United Way," Justine said. "With a high percentage of families on child care assistance, we simply don’t have the resources to purchase equipment and develop new programs.”

CFI continues to brainstorm new ways to make its center a healthy place. This year it started a visual board featuring a new topic about health each month so that parents learn as they pick up their kids. Topics include information about consuming fruits and vegetables and about smoking in the home.

A monthly calendar lets families check off how well they’re progressing in the 5-2-1-0 areas. The program also provided families water bottles and a cookbook with healthy recipes. 

This support for families is important, Justine said, as the center serves many low-income families who may live in environments that make it difficult to encourage healthy habits.

“We do everything possible to help the family,” Justine said. "Any partnership or resource we can have at our disposal is one more support for our families."

Find more information about 5-2-1-0 programming: 


LEARN MORE about 5-2-1-0

Topics: Health

Erin Drinnin

Written by Erin Drinnin

Erin Drinnin is United Way's former Community Impact Officer for Essential Needs and Health & Well-Being.