Children grow and thrive best when they eat well. If you provide meals, snacks and drinks, you have an obligation under the EYFS (England) or under CIW requirements (Wales) to ensure that these are healthy, balanced and nutritious.
Our friends at the Children's Food Trust have loads of free information, practical guides, menu planners and nutrition guides for childminders and other childcare professionals to download. These will help inspire your menus and, most importantly, understand what and why children need to eat well.
There is also Food and Nutrition Guidance for Childcare Providers in Wales available, published by the Welsh Government. PACEY Cymru were a key partner in the development of this guidance and supported consultation with the sector around this.
The new standards and guidance includes accompanying menus and recipes for settings. It aims to support settings to meet the childcare regulations for food and drink, but to also help parents in being more aware of what settings offer their children and taking messages home on the healthy choices they have made.
The guidance sets out the up to date, evidenced based food standards and how to implement them in practice, so that childcare settings can:
- serve snacks that are nutritious, with little or no sugar and salt;
- provide only healthy and safe drinks that are protective to teeth, milk and water;
- serve a range of tasty, nutritious meals to help develop good eating habits;
- ensure portion sizes are appropriate for the age of children.
Isn't healthy expensive, though?
Registered childminders are eligible for free milk under the Nursery Milk scheme. The scheme, run by the Department for Health, gives each child under 5 in your care a third of a pint of fresh milk every day. Visit www.nurserymilk.co.uk for more information and to sign up.
Providing healthy, balanced nutritious food needn't cost a fortune. Whether you've decided to include the cost of providing food in your fees, or if you charge separately for meals and snacks (especially if you're offering the early years entitlement) here are some of our favourite efficiency saving ideas from childminders:
"Order food shopping online – you will often need the same food every week, and your online shopping account will let you create a ‘list’ of items regularly purchased and will deliver it to your door, saving you time and money!"
"Make meals in bulk and freeze where possible. This helps when you're planning your menus. For example, if you plan to serve cottage pie every third week, you could make two at once and freeze one batch, saving time and money."
"Take advantage of supermarket savings and offers. A membership card at discount stores such as Costco can be a good way of making savings."
"Made too much food? If you have extra vegetables, meat or potatoes, blend them all together to make wholesome, nutritious baby food – you can then use it the next day, or freeze it for future use."
"I love my freezer! To avoid waste, consider freezing items that you know you will always need, such as meat and certain vegetables. Milk and bread can also be frozen." If you have room, consider purchasing a freezer exclusively for your childminding setting's use.
Could parents in your setting qualify for 'Healthy Start'?
Healthy Start is a government scheme to help improve the health of pregnant women and families with young children on benefits and tax credits.
Parents in your setting could qualify if they are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old and their family are in receipt of:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit with a family income of £16,190 or less per year
- Pension Credit; or
- Universal Credit with no earned income or total earned income of £408 or less per month for the family.
If parents are under 18 and pregnant, they qualify even if they are not recieving any of the above benefits.
Parents can apply on the Healthy Start website.