Central Kitchen

Nutritional Security for Utah’s At-Risk Children

What We Do

The Central Kitchen prepares nutritious foods from scratch and delivers meals to children enrolled in Head Start education, both during the school year and in the summertime. The Central Kitchen also serves children in select after-school and child care programs, including the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, University of Utah children’s programs, and more.

The Need

With malnutrition and obesity rates high among low-income children, the nutrition provided by the Central Kitchen initiative is essential to the health and well-being of at-risk children in Utah.

For some Utah children, the meals they receive at Head Start are the only meals they’ll receive during a day. For others, the diets they have access to outside of our program may be high in fats and sugars. The Central Kitchen helps ensure that all Head Start children go home with at least two-thirds of their daily meals and that the nutritional value of these meals is as high as possible.

School-Year Program

In operation since 2010, UCA’s Central Kitchen is a successful social enterprise serving more than 850,000 meals per year to Head Start children, after-school programs, charter school students, and child care facilities, both during the school year and the summer break.

Summer Program

During the summer, UCA’s Central Kitchen continues to deliver meals to our year-round students. Additionally, the Central Kitchen runs the summer food program at 3 sites throughout Salt Lake County. This program runs for 10 weeks each summer.


Preschool children aged 0-5 who are also enrolled in Utah Community Action Head Start or Early Head Start are eligible to get daily meals through the Central Kitchen.

To enroll your child in Head Start or Early Head Start, click here.

If your daycare or childcare program is interested in receiving CACFP school meals, contact Colby Hall, Kitchen Manager at 801-410-5651 or colby.hall@utahca.org


Healthy Eating Standards

As part of the Central Kitchen initiative started in 2009, Utah Community Action established its own best practices for healthy eating, requiring meals catered through the Central Kitchen to meet or exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) standards.

Our best practices for healthy eating:

  • Foods prepared from scratch ingredients; minimal use of pre-packaged foods
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables served with every meal
  • Access to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Locally grown and, when possible, organically grown foods
  • Whole grain products, including pasta
  • Lean protein choices
  • White milk (whole milk for children aged 1–2 years and nonfat milk for children aged 2–5)
  • Low-fat and nonfat dairy foods
  • Foods low in fat, sugar, and salt
  • Cereals low in sugar
  • Foods not fried


The Head Start Central Kitchen initiative focuses on the individual/interpersonal level of the socio-ecologic model (children and their teachers and parents), with a secondary focus on the organizational level (preschools).

UCA’s Central Kitchen initiative is an emerging intervention based on its use of evidence-based strategies. The initiative shows promise, but evidence in support of effectiveness is not yet available.

Our Story


The Head Start director and health manager, troubled by the quality of meals served to children enrolled in Head Start, started exploring how Head Start could provide high-quality, nutritious meals.

Utah Community Action decided to establish our own set of best practices for healthy eating and to find a vendor who would meet their price requirements and provide delivery of 2,400 hot meals each day. No vendor could be found to meet these criteria. Consequently, Utah Community Action began exploring the concept of finding and operating their own kitchen facility. They sought input from a broad variety of sources and visited a number of central kitchens, ranging from San Diego, California, to the north side of Salt Lake City.


After some challenges, UCA found a kitchen space that needed renovation to bring it up to code. Construction began. During renovation, a temporary kitchen was found in a Greek Orthodox Church. During this pilot phase, we hired a food services director/chef and other kitchen staff and developed and tested systems for operating the kitchen. The food services director played an important role in developing the building plans for the Central Kitchen.


Renovations were completed, and Utah Community Action officially launched the Central Kitchen. What started as a pilot program serving 300 meals a day has turned into a social enterprise serving more than 850,000 meals per year to our Head Start children and other children in the community.

About Central Kitchen


The primary goal of the Utah Community Action (UCA) Head Start Central Kitchen is to control the quality of food provided to Head Start children. The full initiative consists of a central kitchen that provides affordable, high-quality meals and snacks that are served in an environment that emphasizes modeling of healthy eating and providing positive reinforcement and education about new foods.

Equal Opportunity Provider

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, and reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, and American Sign Language) should contact the responsible State or local Agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a complainant should complete a Form AD 3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, which can be obtained online, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:


U.S. Department of Agriculture

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; or


(833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442;



This institution is an equal opportunity provider.