Settings can sign up for membership of the The Early Years Nutrition Partnership, which offers advice and training.
The aim is to set a national standard for early years nutrition in the context of growing obesity and poor eating habits in children.
The initiative, a collaboration between the Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA) the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), and Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition, the global food company’s pregnancy and early years range, is also offering a quality mark and level 3 training in nutrition and hydration.
The EYN Partnership Quality Mark, available to all subscribed settings, will have grades ranging from accredited to specialist – an accolade reserved for the most innovative.
The scheme, initially-funded by Danone's Ecosysteme Fund, is launching in seven regions initially, including Manchester, the Midlands and London, before extending further afield later on this year. The intention is that the programme will become self-funding within three to four years through membership fees.
A ‘local nutrition professional’ will tailor advice to suit each demographic and the particular needs of the setting.
To coincide with the launch, the partnership has published a report summarising research carried out with 700 settings.
It found that 79 per cent of settings do not receive any support or external nutrition advice. Some 93 per cent said prospective parents enquire about food provided. Some 54 per cent of settings said they spend less than £1 a day on meals and snacks per child.
One of the nutritionists involved in the partnership, Catherine Lippe, said, 'I think this is a really exciting initiative. It gives us the opportunity to get to know settings individually and provide hands on support which is tailored to their needs.
'It can be difficult for settings to interpret nutrition guidelines for themselves and apply them to their own facilities and needs. What we are there to do is to work alongside them, help them put the guidelines into practice, and make practical changes that are appropriate and sustainable.'
Michael Freeston, the Alliance's director of quality improvement, said, 'Registering with the EYN Partnership is an excellent way for early years settings to demonstrate that they support both the statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage and Ofsted’s new Common Inspection Framework, and that they are committed to excellence in nutrition.
'The unique design of the model will help settings make practical and sustainable changes that will significantly benefit the children in their care.'
A board – consisting of Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch, director general of the BNF, Professor Judith Buttress, and June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation – will guide strategy.
The veracity of the recommendations will be kept in check by an expert panel covering the gamut of early years issues, from behavioural psychology to obesity.
The panel consists of director of communication charity ICAN Clare Geldard; biopsychology professor Marion Hetherington; Professor Christine Pascal, director of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood; professor of nutrition and childhood obesity Pinki Sahota; Alison Lennox, professor of public health nutrition at the University of Surrey; and Kirsten Watters, consultant in public health at Southwark and Lambeth Public Health Directorate.
Settings that subscribe to the EYN Partnership by the end of July will pay a £150 rate for 12 months. Thereafter, there are hopes to offer nurseries in deprived areas the scheme with a subsidised rate.
- For more information visit eynpartnership.org and follow @EYNpartnership on Twitter.