Office for Children - Head Start

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

TTY 711

Pennino Building, 12011 Government Center Parkway, Suite 920
Fairfax, VA 22035

Jennifer Branch,


banner head start children posing for photo

Access to Healthy Food

Nutrition: Obesity, inadequate physical activity and poor oral health are the three major health problems that children are facing today. Head Start encourages good nutrition, physical activity and proper oral health in the daily curriculum as mandated by the Head Start Program Performance Standards (1304.21, 1304.22 and 1304.23) and in order to obtain positive child outcomes.

The nutrition program focuses on the importance of providing children with nourishing food and opportunities to promote their intellectual and social development. Parents play an important role in their children's nutrition. Head Start provides and offers nutrition education activities to parents, staff and child care providers to enhance nutrition skills and build interest.

Partnerships with Virginia Cooperative Extension as well as Cooking Matters take parents on grocery tours and help them practice their culinary skills.

Nutrition screening and assessments are conducted to ensure that children's eating and growth patterns are normal. A child's diet can affect how she grows, develops, looks and feels.

Fairfax County Early Head Start and Head Start program provides nutritious meals that follow the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) guidelines. Providing nutritious meals to children is a fundamental Head Start service.


The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a federally funded program that provides meal reimbursement to child care centers, adult day care centers, emergency shelters, before and after school programs and child development homes for serving nutritious meals.

The objectives of the CACFP are to:

Provide a subsidy to eligible child and adult care institutions for serving nutritious meals.

Serve nutritious meals and snacks to children and adults in care.

Foster lifelong habits of healthy eating and physical activity.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or Local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

Federal Civil Rights Statement
The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital Status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.) If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at Or at any USDA office, or call (866)632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax 202-690-7442 or email at Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339; or 800-845-6136 (Spanish).

Family Style Eating

The Head Start program encourages family-style meals to help children learn to eat at a leisurely pace. Family-style meal service means serving foods in bowls or dishes on the table. Children are encouraged to serve themselves, or serve themselves with help from an adult. Enough food it is placed on the table to provide the full required portion size for all the children at the table.

Nutrition specialists, health managers, teachers and child care providers promote conversations between adults and children. The adults model healthy eating habits and proper table manners and encourage children to try a variety of foods.

Family-style meals allow children to identify and be introduced to new foods, new tastes and new menus. Children are often unsure about new foods and may become more willing to try a small serving of a new food when they see other children sample something different.

Children can choose the amount of food they would like to have on their plate. When foods are served family-style, children may choose to take a small portion of food, knowing that the food will still be available if they would like a second serving. Children feel more in control to judge their hunger and fullness throughout the meal, knowing that more food is within easy reach.

Children practice good table manners and new skills with their hands and fingers. Serving themselves gives children time to practice skills like passing, pouring and scooping foods. Taking turns, sharing and politely turning down foods are all a part of the table manners children learn by participating in family-style meals.

Anti-Obesity Initiatives

Positive patterns of behavior are formed early in a child's life. The Head Start program helps young children maintain a healthy weight through nutritious meals and regular moderate to vigorous physical activity. Walking, gardening, quickly pushing a baby's stroller and climbing stairs are examples of physical activity that parents and children can do. Being physically active is a key to a longer, healthier and happier life. For health benefits, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous and add up to at least 30 minutes a day.

I AM Moving, I AM Learning

The 9-5-2-1-0 for Health message highlights the five key behaviors that promote healthy weight and overall good health for children and adults:

9 - Get at least nine hours of sleep per day.
5 - Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
2 - Limit screen time to two hours or less outside of school
1 - Get at least one hour of physical activity per day.
0 - Eliminate sugar-added beverages.

95210 Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition

Locating Prenatal Care for Pregnant Women

Prenatal care and Head Start: Early Head Start National Resource Center

A healthy pregnancy has a direct influence on the health and development of a newborn child. Early Head Start (EHS) strives to have the greatest impact on participating children by offering supportive services as early in life as possible. The prenatal period of growth and development has a lasting impact on the child's potential for healthy growth and development after birth.

The Early Head Start Program provides services to pregnant women and their families through the child's first three years of life. This includes: meeting with pregnant women on an as-needed basis to address any issues or concerns during pregnancy; a two-week postpartum visit after delivery to assess mother's and baby's nutritional status, determine if there may be any postpartum depression or other mental health or substance abuse issues, and to provide additional support and information about available resources.

Connecting Families to Health Care Services, Including Children with Special Needs

Head Start ensures that children receive health and development screenings, oral health, mental health support and nutritious meals. The program connects families to medical, dental, and mental health services and ensures that children receive the services they need.

Dental Health Services

Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease. It is caused by bacteria that can be shared from person to person. Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay and promote good oral health. Effective oral health practices vary depending on the developmental skills of each child. When children have a healthy mouth, they can speak more clearly, eat healthy foods and feel good about themselves. A healthy mouth also means a child can better focus and learn, have a pain-free mouth, resulting in fewer dental costs for families. Our program is required to work with each family to establish an ongoing source of preventive and primary oral health care with diagnostic testing, examination and treatment. It is often referred to as a dental home.
Good Oral Health Care English *
Good Oral Health Care Spanish *
*Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination in all county programs, services and activities. To request reasonable accommodations or to receive this information in an alternate format, call the 888-227-5125.

Mental Health Services

Head Start has always recognized that ensuring the healthy development of children includes attention to their mental health. As with physical health, Head Start's primary strategy is to prevent problems by reducing risks and encouraging healthy habits. All children receive a social/emotional screening when they enter the program to identify any possible need for services, including skill building, behavior support and counseling services. When mental health services are needed, Head Start helps children and their families receive them. All programs have a mental health professional on site for a range of 10-40 hours a month. Consultation is also available to parents, teachers, family advocates and any other staff working with children.

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