Nicola Calder, EYN Partnership Nutritionist
As a public health nutritionist, after working in policy development for a number of years, it’s been great for me to get out of the office and into the community to introduce the Early Years Nutrition Partnership programme to nurseries. The summer has provided me with an opportunity to begin to meet with early years practitioners and find out about some of the excellent approaches that settings already take to promoting healthy and nutritious food and ways in which they engage children and families.
One of the first settings to sign-up to the EYN Partnership in my area is Ladybird Private Day Nurseries, which has two nurseries in Salford, with approximately 200 registered children. The nurseries have a lovely caring atmosphere, and the team of experienced practitioners are particularly passionate about inclusive practice, and are totally committed to the health and wellbeing of the children in their care. I am really impressed in particular by the extent to which they cater for specific dietary requirements that children may have as a result of allergies or intolerances.
When I first spoke to the team at Ladybird they were quick to see the potential benefits of us working together as they already fully understand the importance of encouraging positive eating habits at an early age. Lynn Blay, Nursery Manager, says, 'We see this as an opportunity to work in partnership with a qualified and experienced nutritionist to review our current menus with a view to giving our children the best start in life. Salford in particular has high levels of child tooth decay and obesity and believe we can be positive role models, influencing family choices over nutrition, exercise and dental practice.'
Ladybird are already doing great things. They are part of the Local Authority Tooth Healthy Scheme, so the children in the nurseries all brush their teeth together during the day, and the team also recommend local dentists to parents to register their children.
The team are currently on a mission to dissuade parents from sending children in the mornings with juice, fizzy drinks, crisps, sweets and chocolates and are instead trying to support parents to learn about healthy alternatives. Menus and information on provision within the setting are shared and discussed with families during induction and this work is ongoing.
There are currently exciting plans to introduce a food growing garden, where produce will be incorporated into the menus. They also know the importance of exercise and have a weekly ‘Stretch & Grow’ session for toddlers and pre-schoolers, teaching them about their body, exercise and being healthy, learning skills to take forward in life in a fun environment.
I’m really happy to see that Ladybird is so fully embracing the EYN Partnership. They have already shared information about the programme with parents and carers. One of the parents told me ‘I think it's a wonderful thing that Ladybird are taking part in the Early Years Nutrition Partnership programme. Nutrition is such an important thing to get right from the beginning so a child and their family develop good habits from the start. Good nutrition has such far and wide reaching lifelong benefits and the impact of getting that wrong can be detrimental. I love the idea of the programme educating families and children together and making that process fun. We already cook together as a family but I'm looking forward to trying out new ideas inspired by the Early Years Partnership programme.’
It’s been a pleasure to give Ladybird their ‘Committed’ status, and I’m very much looking forward to working with the team to support them in their journey to accreditation and further training of their fabulous team. Exciting times ahead!
Nicola Calder has a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health Nutrition and a Masters in Public Health. She has worked as a research associate with the Food Policy Team at the Department of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool. Most recently, Nicola led work at the Food and Nutrition Programme for the Health Equalities Group, managing the Food Active programme delivered on behalf of the North West Directors of Public Health. Prior to this, she worked on a sub-regional cardiovascular disease prevention programme which she joined following a secondment to the Department of Health North West where she was part of the food and nutrition team, as well as working as a Food and Health Advisor within a community Nutrition and Dietetic Department for 7 years.
The EYN Partnership would like to thank Nicola for contributing her expert thoughts and personal views on this issue. Please note, that if you have any questions regarding the above as it relates to children in your care, please contact your healthcare professional for guidance.