Redcliffe Children’s centre and Nursery School was praised by our judges for demonstrating food excellence through its policies and practice and its unique Food Project, for which centre head Elizabeth Carruthers won the BBC Food Hero Award in 2014.
Chef Jo Ingleby’s expertise was recognised at the BBC Food and Farming Awards last year, when she was named Cook of the Year. Jo is passionate about food and shares her knowledge, skills and approach within the setting and wider community.
Their collaboration has been instrumental in developing an ethos at Redcliffe which puts food at the heart of the centre, with delicious lunches, Food Sessions running all week and regular visits to the centre’s farm allotment.
Lunches are happy and sociable events for the children, who sit in key groups with their key person and also eat with the chefs at tables with tablecloths, flowers and china crockery. Children who want seconds can serve themselves. Food is varied, culturally diverse and locally sourced, often with an element of self-assembly such as rolling fajitas or stuffing pittas. Meals are served with lots of fresh salad and new vegetables to try, and all cakes feature a fruit or vegetable.
Redcliffe goes to great lengths to ensure that children with special dietary requirements or who are vegetarian eat food very similar to the others to give a sense of inclusion. Families are provided with recipes and invited to sessions highlighting healthy alternatives to puddings and drinks with high amounts of sugar.
Redcliffe’s Food Project began in 2006, and is based on the importance of engaging children with food and eating, as well as exploring food and developing taste. All practitioners are involved, and take part in Food Sessions with their key groups, documenting, listening and exploring alongside the children, planting seeds and plants at the setting, and leading visits to the allotment. Children can explore food with all their senses, play and imagination to come up with creations of their own, also learning knife skills, peeling and grating.
The centre has developed an Experimental Cookery course, which runs three times a year and is open to other settings that want to develop their own Food Project. It has also devised a training programme for its early years practitioners to train as Food Specialists, with two apprentices spending a day a week in the kitchen learning cookery and food skills, and running food sessions with the children.
‘Redcliffe sets an example for other parts of the city, and other parts of the country, and those kids will appreciate that when they have their own kids’ - Jamie Oliver
Oakwood House Nursery and Forest School, Huddersfield
Oakwood is part of Portland Nurseries, a group of four settings, each with its own chef. Our judges commended Oakwood for a food culture that is well-embedded throughout the whole staff team, who are all knowledgeable, confident and relaxed in their practice. Support and advice for parents is exemplary.
Children have the opportunity to be involved in food preparation as part of their learning activities, practising a wide range of cooking skills. Children often help to peel vegetables, chop fruit, butter bread, crack eggs, knead and roll dough and measure and weigh ingredients.
As well as providing delicious meals, happy mealtimes and opportunities to grow and prepare food, the nursery involves children in the making and using of compost to increase environmental awareness and understanding of nature and the lifecycle of food.
Clockwork Day Nursery, Ashton-under-Lyne
Honey Pot Day Nurseries, Liverpool
Open to early years settings whose approach to and provision of nutritious food promotes children’s health and well-being.