The Children’s Food Campaign started 2014 by calling on all retailers to remove unhealthy snacks from checkouts and replace them with healthier options. This move follows the launch of the ‘junk free checkouts’ campaign last year as part of the Department of Health’s continuing effort to reduce childhood obesity and provides a great opportunity for your learners to get involved. In May 2014 Tesco agreed to remove sweets from all of its checkouts, a move expected to be copied by other supermarkets (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27514077).
Concerns about obesity
The latest report from the Department of Health states that 28 percent of children aged between two and fifteen years old are currently obese (DoH 2013). In 2010, Research by the Advisory Panel on Food and Nutrition in Early Years found that over a fifth of children were either overweight or obese by the time they reached their final year in the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Children’s consumption of unhealthy snacks and junk food has been shown to contribute to poor diet and poor health, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. A 2013 survey by the Dietitians in Obesity Management Specialist Group (DOM UK) found that nearly 8 in 10 shoppers were unhappy with the sale of sugary or high calorie food and drink items at checkouts.
DOM UK is now challenging supermarkets to go ‘junk free’ at the checkout and to permanently remove unhealthy snacks from checkouts and queuing areas. They are encouraging retailers to substitute healthier alternatives, such as dried fruit, oatcakes, ‘funsize’ fresh fruit and sparkling water to create ‘Healthy Checkouts’.
Promoting healthy eating
The Children’s Food Trust provides a wealth of advice about healthy eating in the early years. Their guide “Eat Better, Start Better” (2012) outlines a series of recommendations about preventing obesity, including food choices, portion size, menu planning, recipes, food allergies and special dietary requirements (www.childrensfoodtrust.org.uk)
The Department of Health also provides a range of information including:
- advice on a healthy diet and physical activity through the Change4Life programme at (http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/change-for-life.aspx)
- improving labeling on food and drink to help people make healthy choices
- encouraging businesses to include calorie information on their menus
- providing guidance on physical activity for young children (free downloadable factsheets at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-physical-activity-guidelines)
Supporting your learners
Healthy eating has consistently been a key element within early years training programmes and with the current concerns about childhood obesity, it is probably more important than ever.
Understanding the importance of healthy eating forms part of the assessment for Unit 14 in the BTEC National Diploma in Children’s Play, Development and Learning, particularly:
3A1.P1 Explain the impact of diet on children’s health and development
3A1.M1: Analyse a child’s diet in relation to current expert guidance
3A.D1 Evaluate the extent to which an early years setting contributes to children’s health and development through the provision of food.
This is supported in the new Collins publication ”Key Concepts in Childcare” (2013; ISBN 978-0-00-752198-2), which includes sections on both Healthy Eating and Infant Feeding.
Healthy eating is also part of the new Early Years Educator qualification in Unit 5: Safeguard and promote the health, safety and welfare of children:
5.4 Understand why health and well-being is important for babies and children and promote healthy lifestyles.
Encourage your learners to get involved in the ‘Chuck the Junk’ campaign (http://www.bda.uk.com/news/130916CheckoutJunkFood.pdf). They could carry out research in local supermarkets and other retail stores, analyse their results and create their own recommendations for ‘Healthy Checkouts’ including examples of alternative snacks and drinks. The campaign website includes lots of opportunities for getting involved, including participating in an online survey and nominating retailers to either the ‘Wall of Shame’ or the ‘Wall of Fame’. Your learners could vote on the best performing retailers in their local area and maybe even organize an awards ceremony!
Janet Stearns, EYE Consultant, Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies and former Lead Examiner for CACHE