February 26, 2020

Celebrating 30- Life with the Choices for Children CACFP Homes Program

By Valerie Kelly

 We love learning more about members of the CDI family! This month we had a chance to talk with Carol Thomas, Child and Adult Care Food Program Director for Choices for Children (CFC). Carol has been with us for thirty years!! We discovered more about her background and experiences over the past thirty years here at CDI.  

How long have you been with CFC and what other roles have you worked in? What is your current role in the organization? 

I started with Choices for Children in 1990 as Nutritionist for El Dorado County. Then in 1998, our program expanded and I became Team Manager of El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento counties while managing four employees. In 2010, I became the CACFP Homes Director with a total of ten counties including Amador, Yuba, Yolo, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Currently, I have five fantastic employees who work out of three of our offices (Cameron Park, Morgan Hill and South Lake Tahoe). 

Tell me about your career and educational background. What roles were you in prior to coming to CFC/CDI?  

I went to UC Davis and earned a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics with an emphasis in Community Nutrition. I’ve worked as a hospital dietetic technician and I even worked for Nutrisystem for a while as a counselor before coming on with CDI. In college, I learned a lot about the science behind eating healthy and well, and it really stuck with me. I enjoy teaching daycare providers, parents and children about healthy eating. The USDA food program (CACFP) reimburses Day Care Home providers for healthy meals and snacks served to kids. My staff and I do regular home visits to ensure the regulations are being followed and we provide nutrition education. 

It’s so fun and rewarding to see kids learn what healthy food looks and tastes like and teaching them how it helps their minds and bodies grow.

One of the biggest benefits of the CACFP is that it creates healthy eating habits in children early on. To hopefully last into adulthood. 

Is there a particular experience or memorable moment that stands out to you in your time here at CFC/CDI? 

 Probably my overall workplace environment. I work in the Cameron Park CFC office. There are ten of us who work in different Choices for Children programs and there is always a great vibe and positive energy.

I believe CDI’s company values have trickled down into the way we work and into the communities we serve which is great to see. 

What do you enjoy most about working for CDI/CFC?  

Working for a company that allows us to unlock creativity with tools to grow and develop that morphs into a job that we love. Part of that is me and my personality. Here is this position and being able to be myself with a lot of encouragement. I’m so thankful to have a job that I love and feel a lot of it has come from the top down. CDI has always wanted to make the company desirable for people to work at and does an amazing job for people that want to give back and grow within. 

What does a typical day look like in your position? 

I manage five employees from the Bay Area to South Lake Tahoe. Some of us our outposted and some work out of the office. We regularly connect via email/phone/texting. We have been utilizing Sharepoint more and Teams for meetings which has really helped. Lately, we’ve all been focusing on our state review coming up that happens every two years. I will break up my office work with home visits as I have my own caseload of providers. Today I’m doing an unannounced PM snack and dinner visit as the providers are serving meals to the kids. It’s a good opportunity to connect with the provider which I enjoy. Our work consists of planning for visits, prepare training resource and educational material, creating the monthly newsletter and team meetings among many other tasks. My job also consists of preparing the monthly state claim for reimbursement from the USDA and managing the Homes budget.   

What are some of your biggest challenges? 

The biggest challenge is connecting with my team while working with technology. Everyone is so spread out to be able to cover the ten counties we work in. We meet once a month using Teams and then try to have face to face meetings when we can.  Our company has adopted a lot of new technology over the past few years so keeping up with it and helping others utilize it can sometimes be challenging but having the technology to connect more often is wonderful! 

Tell me something that you think makes our organization unique. 

It truly feels like a family that has grown up to become more professional. There are positive elements to being a family but there also needs to be professionalism which comes with internal controls and strong leadership. I’ve been seeing a lot of positive changes that make us better as professionals and as an organization.

There is a lot of emphasis on excellence and CDI being a company that others desire to be a part of. I’m excited to see where our family goes from here!