Why are food and drinks so important in early childhood services?
Many children attend early childhood services and some spend long periods there. This means children can eat many meals and snacks away from their home. Food should be nutritious and also help to meet the social, cultural and educational needs of children.
The preschool years are a time when food habits are being developed. Most children have formed lifelong eating patterns by school age. It is an important responsibility of carers to guide children towards sound food habits which will to help them maintain a healthy weight and good health in the long term.
Whether food is brought from home or prepared on site, early childhood services have a responsibility for the nutrition of children in their care. This is reinforced under the NSW Department of Community Services regulations and the Child Care Quality Assurance systems (to be replaced by the National Quality Framework for Early Education and Care from 2012). Practices and policies need to address issues of nutritional balance, mealtime environment, food hygiene, safety and individual dietary needs including allergies.