How our team found their healthy eating mojo!

Hannah Little, Deputy Principle, Fledglings, Worsley, Greater Manchester

At Fledglings we’ve got seven rooms, 43 staff, and we have 120 children every day! So we have a lot of tiny mouths to feed each day!

Nutrition is massively important to us as an organisation. We know how important it is to get it right. Our EYN Partnership journey has been brilliant so far, we have come such a long way and we are delighted that we have now been awarded the EYN Partnership Quality Mark. When you look back at where we were when we started out, compared to where we are now, there has been a massive change.

Working with Nicola is a real pleasure, she is so professional, and you are in no doubt that you are working with somebody who knows exactly what she is doing! She is patient with us, and understands how busy we are. Nicola is really flexible and works around that. 

One of the best things we have done is the face to face wider team training with Nicola. The workshops are about two and a half to three hours, and they are really interesting and engaging even for quite a lengthy session. Because we wanted everyone to attend, Nicola came in at six in the evening and so it fitted with us. There is so much information in the workshop sessions and Nicola is brilliant at delivering it. We have also had two members of staff do the Level 3 award. So we are very well trained! 

Our journey

It’s been a fascinating journey for us. If you’d asked us when we started out why we were doing it we would probably have said to tackle day to day problems with the food. We have a lot of intolerances here so that is always a challenge for example. But actually, when I talk about it to people now I always find myself saying that the benefits for the staff have been just as important as those for the children. 

At the start of the process it’s fair to say that a lot of people on the team were a bit confused as to why we can’t have smiley faces and pizzas and chips and sausages every day! There was a sense that taking ‘nice’ food off the menu was a bit cruel towards the children. So we had to start by making sure that everybody understood why this was good for the children. There was a lot of confusion about portion sizes too. So educating the team was massive for us and when we started we had a real task on our hands. I’m actually really proud of our team for the way that they have got on board with this. The prevailing attitude has completely changed. You can see it day to day in the conversations we have with parents, and I’ve been delighted to see that when we are doing viewings with prospective parents, the team are now proactively chatting about our work with the EYNP. 

The team is confident now explaining to parents why the menus are constructed the way they are, and in particular, explaining the balance of the menus across the whole week to ensure all the food groups are represented appropriately. It’s important when you make changes to be able to talk about them and justify them to parents, and that’s something that the training has given us.

It’s really good to see how this is actually helping our team with their own attitudes to food. Doing this makes us think about what we eat and drink ourselves, and so it’s overhauled quite a few people’s attitudes! While that’s good for us personally I think it also has an impact on the children. If we have healthy attitudes to food then that comes across to the children, and we have also specifically gained knowledge about how we all talk to the children about food.

We’ve had lots of good feedback from the parents and of course being able to tell parents that we are part of the EYNP is a great selling point for us, it gives us a bit of an edge. A lot of our parents are very interested in healthy eating, so it is great for us to be able to tell them about the work we are doing and to feel confident having conversations about it. 

I love the idea of sharing our learnings with parents. We would love to coordinate a parent workshop, and I’m planning on creating a display in our parent area. We also do lots of stuff on Facebook to promote what we are achieving with EYNP. 

Gaining value

We would definitely encourage other nurseries to sign up for EYNP. It’s great value for money because it is a personal, tailored package, and you get a really personal service from the registered nutrition professional. It hasn’t cost us any more money to make the changes, we have a flexible food budget but even if we didn’t we would still be able to change our menus for the better with affordable swaps and tips and tricks like using frozen fruit and veg.  

From a personal perspective, as manager, this has given me so much confidence in terms of boosting my knowledge and feeling secure in making changes. I’m excited that we have a team that is behind this now, and as we have just recently taken on a new chef who is also really supportive, I’m excited to see how we take this forward. 

It’s been a great journey for us, and we have gained so much more than we expected by changing the mindset of our team. We are looking forward to a healthy future!