It recently launched a campaign to improve the quality of food it offers to children and now uses local butchers, bakers and an organic farm to source all of its ingredients.
Nursery manager Steph Chapman said, ‘We are finding that the children’s concentration is better with the changed diet and our observations also highlight they are more content.’
Favourites on the menu include roast vegetable kebabs with a sticky glaze, savoury tomato pastry twists, lemon chicken/red pepper risotto with peas and tagliatelli with summer vegetables. Desserts include homemade shortbread with fruit, bread and butter pudding, lemon drizzle cake and fruit salad.
Parental interest in the kind of food suppliers being used by Positive Steps was the primary catalyst behind the decision to alter the menu. Ms Chapman said that parents were particularly enthusiastic about the use of local suppliers.
She also commended the School Food Trust’s new voluntary guidelines for food and drink provision in early years settings, which complement the nursery’s approach. ‘The guidelines were something we were pleased to see as they’re directed specifically at early years,’ she said. ‘And they reinforced our decision to go ahead with the idea of sourcing all our produce locally.’
Ms Chapman sees the cost involved in using local suppliers as an investment in the children. ‘The cost increase is marginal,’ she said. ‘What’s really great is that it gets them talking about what they’re eating and they take that back home with them and talk about food there, which increases their confidence when it comes to food.’
This change to buying ingredients and menu planning has inevitably posed logistical challenges but the nursery has found ways to overcome them.
‘If you have a weekly supermarket delivery then it’s quite simple and it is a case of job done in terms of menu planning,’ said Ms Chapman. ‘Under our new regime we have to plan further ahead because some suppliers can only deliver to the area on certain days, but we work with them to organise everything in advance.’
Positive Steps is also exploring the possibility of becoming a forest school in order to take advantage of its rural setting. The nursery enjoys an idyllic situation in the grounds of a working farm and is currently on the way to achieving gold accreditation with the Woodland Trust.
Ms Chapman says she is keen to maximise opportunities for children to explore their surroundings and enjoy the outdoors. In line with this the nursery is considering training some staff in forest schooling at Oxfordshire's Outdoor Learning Service.