Food Matters
Author Care Inspectorate
Resource Type Care Inspectorate Programmes & Publications

Food matters

Eating well is essential for children in their early years. Food Matters celebrates the many ways in which early learning and childcare (ELC) settings are supporting children to have positive eating experiences and enjoy well-balanced, nutritious food.

It is a resource that highlights examples of good practice from across the ELC sector and is intended to be practical, inspirational and support improvement. You can use these examples to think about your own setting and how you can make improvements that impact positively on children’s relationships with food and their eating experiences.

We have worked alongside the sector to enable providers, practitioners and families to tell their own stories of how they are supporting children to eat well and enjoy good food every day. Throughout this resource, we link the examples to the new Health and Social Care Standards, which are based on human rights and wellbeing principles and set out what people should expect from their care and support.

The examples we have shared cover a variety of good practice and show how services have made significant improvements both throughout their settings and for individual children and families. These examples demonstrate a range of different approaches, some are traditional and direct while others are gentle and nurturing. These gentle and nurturing approaches are enhanced when children have developed strong attachments with key adults. In addition, they provide an opportunity to support children and their families in a way which makes them feel valued and included.

The Care Inspectorate is committed to promoting equality and Food Matters aims to support Scotland’s ambition that all children will have the best start in life. We recognise that the earliest years of life are crucial to a child’s development and will have a lasting impact on their health outcomes. The expansion in the annual provision of ELC services from 600 to 1140 hours for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds in Scotland means many more of our youngest children will be spending more time in these settings. Many children will receive a considerable proportion of their daily nutrition and food experiences here. This means it is even more important that they have high quality food and are enabled to develop a positive relationship with food. The Care Inspectorate recognises that the expansion means new challenges for ELC settings to provide meals and snacks for children over the extended session times, but also that there are exciting opportunities to help children eat well and lay the foundations for a healthy diet.

Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a key aim of the expansion of ELC in Scotland. Examples in this resource highlight the importance of children having access to high quality, nutritious food and understanding the difference this makes to them. We recognise that health inequalities and associated issues such as food poverty are complex. We recognise that many families live in challenging circumstances and the ELC sector is well placed to support children and families to explore and connect positively with food. There are some fantastic examples within this document that highlight great whole-family approaches and partnership working to help overcome barriers to eating well.

Food Matters complements, and should be used alongside, NHS Health Scotland’s Setting the Table, the nutritional guidance and food standards for the ELC sector.

The examples are available to read by clicking on Good Practice Examples and Materials below. We are also inviting services to provide further practice examples for us to share on an ongoing basis in our More Examples of Good Practice section.



Good practice examples

We have produced three short documentary videos to accompany the Food Matters publication. They feature staff and children from Dens Road Primary School Nursery, Fernielea Out of School Club and Glen Family Centre telling us about their own stories. You can watch videos below.

Dens Road Primary School Nursery

Fernielea Out of School Club

Glen Family Centre

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