Getting busy with nursery food
Tim Young - 15 March 2012
No matter how many times I see it, I'm always shocked by the statistic that nearly one in four of our children are overweight when they start primary school. I know – because I've two small children myself – that trying to get young kids to eat a totally balanced diet is a non-trivial pastime (indeed some days getting Young's kids to eat any kind of diet can be a challenge) so I don't instinctively blame anyone for this sad state of affairs. It's just that it makes me, well, sad.
However, what shocks me even more, is that the food provided in nurseries is more or less completely unregulated – the Government guidelines for under-fives are voluntary. Given everything that we know about the importance of establishing healthy eating patterns early, the fact that our youngest children at nursery can still be fed with sugar and fat stuffed rubbish that will be banned when they start school is really a bit of a scandal when you think about it.
So I always love it when I see stories like today's announcement that Busy Bees nursery – one of the country's largest chains of nurseries if you're not familiar with it – has received our bronze Food for Life Catering Mark. What this means is that each day 14,000 freshly prepared, seasonal meals will be served to under-fives in 129 nurseries across England. Meals that have been cooked by trained staff, using farm assured meat, free-range eggs and containing no undesirable additives, transfats or GM ingredients.
What I think is particularly pleasing in this case is that this is a large player in the nursery sector, and it has put time and effort into ensuring it is providing children healthy food partly in response to the demands of its customers (the children's parents), but also because it knows it's the right thing to do. And Busy Bees is not alone; there are many other smaller nurseries that show similar dedication to ensuring the children in their charge receive fresh, healthy food.
Let's hope this trend continues and turns into a flood - as surely all our children deserve healthy food as a right not a privelege. The video below explains more about Busy Bees and the Catering Mark, so take a look for yourself.
Tim is editor of the Soil Association's Living Earth magazine, and has written on food, health and consumer issues for the last ten years. When not at work Tim is normally being run ragged by his two young sons. In 2009 Tim started trying to grow vegetables, and last year he took on an allotment. Two years later he is still trying to grow vegetables, and is very hopeful that one day soon he will have some success.