Co-op Childcare has launched a pioneering new health and wellbeing programme that will teach young children about healthy eating and food provenance, based on research that shows nearly all parents want more education on nutrition in nurseries.
The initiative has been led by research and insight sourced from parents, which shows that 98% would like their children to understand more about where food comes from. Parents also rate a nutritionally balanced menu second only to Ofsted ratings in the most important factors considered when choosing a nursery for their child.
Nutritionally balanced, traceable menus have been launched across all 44 of its nurseries, which have been created with and accredited by the child health charity Startwell and endorsed by celebrity doctor, Dr Hilary Jones. As part of the design of the menus, parents, children and colleagues were asked which foods they’d like to see included, with the final menus incorporating the findings of the survey.
Each setting has also received a growing package from Rocket Gardens for their nursery garden, complete with vegetable patch, strawberry planter and organic herb garden. Enhanced growing areas will be rolled out across the group, to encourage children to interact with nature on a daily basis, planting, tending, picking, and maintaining the plants to improve their knowledge of the journey from earth to plate.
As part of the new programme, colleagues, including nursery staff and chefs, are undertaking specialist nutritional training. This will ensure colleagues are equipped to support parents with advice on nutrition, and chefs can apply their training when developing new recipes.
The new menus will be delivered by food wholesaler Brakes, has rigorously tested accreditations in place to mark the high quality of its food, and ensures all meat and fresh produce is fully traceable back to the supplier.
Rachael Escott, Sales & Marketing manager at Co-op Childcare, said: “We know that children who understand where food comes from are much more likely to have a positive relationship with healthy eating, so it makes sense to start education around this topic early. Many healthy eating programmes start a school age, but we want to encourage good food habits from a much younger age.
“We’ve been working closely with parents, colleagues, and children, to make sure we help the little ones in our care lead the healthiest lives they can.”
Dr Hilary Jones, GP, Medical Broadcaster and Author, said: “Co-op Childcare has committed to delivering healthy, wholesome, varied meals to ensure all the children in its nurseries are getting all the nutrients they need, and the education to understand why nutrition is important.
“With this strong foundation, they can continue on to grow, learn, and flourish and maintain a lifelong, positive relationship with food.”