The results from the Early Years Nutrition Partnership (EYNP) found that the overwhelming majority of UK parents (82 per cent) expect their childcare provider to seek expert advice on the latest nutritional guidance for young children.
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The online survey 'Childcare Poviders and Nutrition' by YouGov of 800 parents with children aged between one- to four-years-old found that 90 per cent believe it is important that their childcare provider has a good general understanding of young children’s nutritional needs, rating this as more important than other aspects of nursery life, such as daily handovers (89 per cent), and learning journals given to parents (86 per cent).
They also felt it was more important than other nursery facilities, such as good reception areas (49 per cent) and the availability of buggy parking (64 per cent).
Meanwhile, separate research by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, carried out in 2016, found that 79 per cent of childcare providers are not receiving external nutrition advice.
Annie Denny, nutrition development manager at the Early Years Nutrition Partnership said, ‘We’re impressed to see that parents and carers have high expectations about nutrition in nurseries and pre-schools as we believe childcare providers have a responsibility to get nutrition right in the early years. Our message is that by upskilling practitioners we can help them engage with parents on an exciting nutrition journey, that results in healthier and affordable meals in the setting, and likely inspiration and help for home too.’
June O’Sullivan, EYNP board member and chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, said that nurseries had a vital role to play in training their staff to support families with their child's health.
‘The childhood obesity epidemic in this country is a national scandal, and so far Government responses have fallen far short,' she said. 'To my mind, it is now up to us as a sector to take action on this ourselves. Every single setting needs to be taking action to upskill their team and to make sure in particular that chefs are trained. Parents are trusting us to get this right. If we are not prepared to act now the consequences for the nation’s health will be dire.’
Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Pre‑school Learning Alliance added, ‘What I want settings to realise is that nutrition is the bedrock to delivery of the EYFS. A well-nourished child will have a better physical, educational, social and emotional development journey through the early years system. These survey results show us that there is a golden opportunity for settings to partner with parents and engage them in enhancing food and mealtimes both at the setting and at home too.’
Stacey Bailer, regional quality manager at nursery group Fennies, which is working with the EYNP, said, ‘We want our practitioners to be able to support parents further in their understanding of the importance of a nutritionally balanced diet.’