Young children’s healthy development is dependent on a number of important factors that support physical, emotional, and social as well as cognitive development. In addition to the proven benefits of high-quality early childhood education, health, nutrition, and other comprehensive services play a crucial role in preparing young children to thrive in school and life.

Access to healthy, nutritious foods is essential for healthy brain and physical development. But 18 percent of children in the United States experienced food insecurity at some point in the past year. Children who experience food insecurity as infants and toddlers are more likely to have lower levels of cognitive and social-emotional skills at kindergarten entry. Food insecurity in the preschool years is also correlated with higher levels of behavior problems and obesity in early childhood and adulthood.

Several federally funded programs help families and early care and education programs meet young children’s nutritional needs.