Early Years Eat Well Policy Launch

Giving our children the best and healthiest start in life is critical and this includes providing everyday access to nutritious food. We’ve been working closely with the local Early Years sector, and the States Early Years Team to develop and pilot test a new policy, guidance and support package to help achieve this and we are excited to tell you about it.

Pre School children chopping vegetables - this forms one of the 8 elements which support children to develop healthy relationship with food
Pre School children chopping vegetables - this forms one of the 8 elements which support children to develop healthy relationship with food

This work started in early 2019 when we co-developed the Nutrition Code of Good Practice with the States Early Years Team and Early Years providers. We tested how this could be implemented with four settings in 2020. The lessons learnt from the pilot helped us to refine the Eat Well Policy and we are now ready to support the rest of the providers in our islands to align their food provision and practice with the Early Years Quality Standards Framework. 

When rolled out across all 31 local early years settings, we estimate that the changes have the potential to impact the food experiences of approximately 2,700 children between the ages of 0-5 years at any one time.

The policy is based on the latest evidence and includes 8 elements which support pre-school age children to develop a healthy relationship with food including eating in social environments, avoiding using food as a reward, healthy lunch box guidance and working closely with parents and carers. The different elements of the policy can be seen below.

The Early Years settings and practitioners have such an important role to play in children’s development. A policy across all settings, will help make healthy food a normal, everyday experience for all children accessing early years education. This work contributes to our broader work with Health Visitors and supporting specific families with targeted support. We are hopeful that this will be a catalyst for real and sustained change.

Katie Hill, Specialist Nurse

All settings have been brilliant at taking on this task. The sector as a whole has embraced the opportunity to improve its practice and in doing so improve children’s health too. As a team we are excited to support all settings and work with them. We are looking to expand this work further by supporting families to eat well when out of home through our most recent appointment to our team. The overall aim is for children to find themselves in settings that offer healthy, affordable and appealing food.

Alex Kosmas, Community Nutritionist

This work is an example of how we have developed an excellent partnership between the third sector, the private sector and the States. The Commission have been delighted to be able to contribute our expertise in nutrition to the development of the Policy and going forwards the human resources to work alongside settings to support its implementation.

I found the support really helpful. I realised we were doing a lot of it anyway and just hadn’t written it down. Parents have received it well and that they have been fine with making changes for example providing water instead of juice. We have been trying lots of fruit and vegetables with the children and encouraging new tastes. Some of the staff are now eating more healthily as a result and one member of the team who was extremely fussy is now eating more fruit. I have seen the children supporting and encouraging her to try fruit too.

Heidi Garnham, Little Learners Day Nursery Manager, was involved in the Eat Well Policy pilot phase

The States Early Years Team are excited to work with the Commission to ensure all Early Years children attending day nurseries and preschools are positively experiencing healthy relationships with food.

The Health Improvement team are working individually with each preschool and day nursery to support them to create a bespoke Eat Well policy unique to each setting. The policy will then fall in line with our Early Years Quality Standards Framework that all settings adhere to.

We are grateful to the Commission team for all their commitment to our EY years settings and look forward to continuously working with them.

Kate Hynes, Early Years Education Officer

The policy is being implemented in three phases to allow us to support all settings in time. We have started work with the first 10 settings, which we had planned to be finished by end of spring. We envisaged that by the end of this year, all settings would have a policy in place and be working towards implementing it. However, we will keep our plan under review as the current lockdown restrictions ease. 

Our support has come in the form of reviewing menus and snack options to follow the EY Food Guidance, writing policies with setting managers, consulting with parents and providing ideas to create balanced lunch boxes. We are also running food tasters with children to help widen their food acceptance and provide training sessions for staff on building healthy relationships with food and food refusal. Our support for the sector will continue as we know that large-scale policy and change in practice takes time.

To find out more about what the policy includes check below links:

Eat Well Policy Infographic which includes all the policy components

Lunch Box Lowdown which is developed to guide parents to prepare balanced lunchboxes

Building Healthy Relationships with Food resource – this is part of our core training for Early Years practitioners. It is also used with parents/carers and the wider workforce such as Health Visitors.

For more info about Early Years in the Bailiwick go to the States Early Years Team website.