Early years providers begin training on new nutrition guidelines

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Pilots have started in five local authorities to train early years practitioners on the forthcoming nutritional guidelines, and encourage families with young children to eat more healthily.

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Around 30 staff working with nurseries, children's centres, childminders and other early years settings in Hertfordshire are this month piloting the training, which involves learning how to help settings use the new nutritional guidelines and code of practice for providing nutritious food and drink for young children, currently being drawn up by the School Food Trust.

Hertfordshire is one of five authorities piloting the 'Eat Better, Start Better' project, with Stoke, Southwark and Gloucestershire, and one to be confirmed.

The training covers the evidence behind the nutritional guidelines, how to put together a menu for young children in group settings, ways to communicate with parents, and how to read and understand food labelling.

Early years settings can then pass on their knowledge to families by running their own classes (News, 26 July).

Patricia Mucavele, a nutritionist from the School Food Trust involved in the delivery of the project, said, 'What children eat and learn about food at this young age sets the foundations for their health in the future, which is why this is so important.

'Evidence shows there is huge demand from people working in childcare for clearer guidance on how to feed children well. That's the starting point for this work.'

Caroline Swindells, strategy manager for children's centres and child poverty at Hertfordshire County Council, who commissioned the training, said, 'The training helped dispel myths over what foods should be given to children and when, such as dried fruit on its own as a snack when it should be given as part of a meal. It is also looked at how to achieve a good balance across a day's and week's worth of meals.

'The council will be carrying out an audit across early years settings before and after the introduction of the guidelines to test how supportive they are to practitioners. The results will be shared with the School Food Trust.'

- See Letters, p13.

TIMELINE FOR NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES

  • March 2010 Government review into standards of nursery food launched by Advisory Panel on Food and Nutrition in Early Years
  • March 2011 Advisory Panel on Food and Nutrition in Early Years publish their recommendations and call for a national set of nutritional guidelines for the under-fives
  • June 2011 The coalition Government announces the School Food Trust will be developing nutritional guidelines
  • June - August 2011 Nutritional guidelines are piloted
  • November 2011 Training across five local authorities starts
  • By early January 2012 Nutritional guidelines published
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