New project encourages communities to work together to improve children's diets

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A pilot project designed to show how businesses and the Government can work together to fight childhood obesity and poor nutrition is to launch next week.

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As part of the Start Smart project Play Days Nursery will be offering all children free breakfast

The project, Start Smart, aims to demonstrate that by working together national organisations, large and small businesses can make a sustainable impact on childhood health across England.

It is being led by Ella’s Kitchen in partnership with Leicester City Council and national partners including The Children’s Food Trust, Asda, The National Obesity Forum.

Start Smart, which also has the support of Michelin Star chef Tom Aikens, TV chef Lorraine Pascale and fitness expert Rosemary Conley, follows on from the national 'Averting a recipe for disaster' campaign and report that outlined ways to tackle the twin challenges of childhood obesity and malnourishment.

The project will be launched in Leicester on 17 March with a week of activities to raise awareness of healthy eating and the importance of childhood nutrition, particularly in under-fives, among families identified by the local authority as being most at need. Activities and events will include:

  • The delivery of 1,500 free breakfasts to children under-five in children’s centres and nurseries throughout the county, focusing on the most disadvantaged areas.
  • Let’s get cooking sessions in schools and children’s centres, facilitated by The Children’s Food Trust
  • Taster cooking skills sessions for volunteers at a local food bank to enable them to offer advice to families receiving food aid about how to make the most of their food.
  • Free ‘guided shop’ sessions for families with a nutritionist at Leicester City Market and a local Asda store, with advice on meal planning, budgeting and low-cost recipes.

Families will also be given ‘Start Smart kits’, which will include a milk pan, wooden spoon, oats, recipe cards and plants to grow their own tomatoes.

To measure the impact of the week’s activities, the Start Smart team will carry out research to see if parents’ understanding of health as a priority has changed. A film will also be produced at the end of the week.

Paul Lindley, founder and chief executive of Ella’s Kitchen, said, ‘This project is at the heart of what Ella’s kitchen Is about. I set up the business with the aim of helping children to have a better relationship with food and to encourage healthy eating habits in babies and toddlers that last a lifetime.

‘When I read reports that suggested half of adults will be obese by 2050 I thought about what society we would have and came up with eight ideas to prevent the disaster. These ideas were included in the Averting a Disaster report, and some of which will be explored by local and community groups through the Start Smart project.’

He added, ‘Following the pilot of Start Smart in Leicester, our ambition is to roll-out the project across the country.’

NURSERY CASE STUDY

Play Days Nursery in Leicester (pictured) will be offering all children in its care free breakfast during the Start Smart week.

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Manager Mel Rylatt said that their funded children, particularly the two-year-olds, would benefit most from having breakfast at nursery.

‘We always put a huge emphasis on healthy eating and creating a nice environment for meal times, but it is normally only our full-time children that eat breakfast with us.

‘We’ve noticed a big difference between our sessional children and those that attend for the full day. The children that don’t eat breakfast at nursery tend to eat more at snack time in comparison and are less able to manage their portion sizes. Sessional children also miss out on the social side of having breakfast at the setting.’

Ms Rylatt said that during the week they will create a café area where all children can help themselves to breakfast.

She added, ‘Throughout the week we intend to take lots of photos which we will use to create a photo journal to put in each room for the children to look at in the future.

‘We hope that by learning about healthy eating and the importance of breakfast, children will be able to pass on their knowledge to their parents. ‘