The Nippers Nutrition Programme
One of our biggest success stories was when we implemented the Nippers Nutrition Healthy Eating Programme, the programme exists to support early years settings across Cornwall ensuring that their food and drink provision is nutritious, healthy and safe to eat. It encourages use of local produce and promotes good standards of food hygiene. The programme has been developed by a partnership between:
- Cornwall Council’s Public Health and Protection Service
- Cornwall Council’s Children’s Schools and Families Service
- Eatsome, part of the NHS Health Promotion Service’s Healthy Weight Programme.
In a pilot setting, the programme resulted in a reduction of salt levels by nearly 40% and a rebalancing of energy provided by meals from carbohydrates and away from fats and sugars. Our first assessment in October 2011 immediately put us on level 1 which is the first level towards gaining a level 5 – the highest award for excellence in food provision. After 9 months of hard work and some interesting changes sampled by our children and parents we had brand new menus and our major assessment in June 2012 accelerated us to level 5. This was a huge achievement of which we were really proud. Our yearly monitoring visits have all resulted in maintaining our level 5. We have recently changed to our winter menu.
Meal times in the beanie room are leisurely and gentle – an attachment opportunity for child and carer. Our home cooked food is either pureed or finely chopped depending on their weaning stage. Children are offered finger foods and encouraged to use use a spoon so that they begin the process of becoming independent. Our youngest children sit at a low table in wooden seats that are designed to support their posture whilst keeping them safe and steady and able to use their hands. The older children in our beanie room sit at a higher table on dining room styled children’s chairs. They are encouraged to eat independently and begin to learn basic meal etiquette such as staying at the table until all their friends have finished eating.
In our other 2 playrooms we recognise mealtimes as an important opportunity for social interaction and building independence. Snacks in our toddler and pre-school rooms are sometimes offered in a cafe style atmosphere where children can choose when and what they want to eat. At other times the children choose to eat outdoors so that their play is not interrupted. Children learn how to use cutlery safely, serve their own food and drinks, take turn and learn basic social etiquette. Meals are eaten in family style small groups and nursery nurses sit with the children, chatting and encouraging them to choose and try a range of foods. As the children get older they learn about hygiene, healthy foods and how to help with the clearing up process.
We have just updated our menu’s for the winter. Our menu’s work on a 4 week rolling rota so that children are not having the same dishes each session they attend. The food is traditional home cooking and includes roast dinners, cottage pie, lasagne, oily fish dishes, casseroles, curries, fresh soups, and pasta dishes. The colour on the full menu’s denote the different food groups so they easily show the balance diet.
A variety of healthy snacks are available each morning. These include fruit, vegetable sticks, toast, eggy crumpets, rice cakes and crackers with cream cheese. We have a fruit bowl selection in the afternoon.
We can provide vegetarian dishes and personalise the menu for children who have food allergies and intolerance’s.
Weekly menus and information about the Nippers Nutrition Programme are displayed in the nursery.