We have four nurseries that are doing the EYNP programme and we are so happy that we have achieved the EYN Partnership Quality Mark Accreditation! It’s funny how it came about, we do a Quality Mark within the learning strategy, and we do Matrix IIP, so we do a lot of awards and similar schemes. My Director and I were talking about what we could do with our menus, and whether there was anything similar for nutrition, so I was going to have a look on Google and then it just so happened that Catherine approached us, so the timing was perfect!
When Catherine came in and told us all about EYNP I knew straight away that it was everything I wanted it to be. We wanted to be able to show that we had worked hard to get our menus right and I knew that if we could get an award for our menus it would be a unique selling point for us.
If I’m honest, I was a bit daunted when I realised what a task I had on my hands. I remember going into the larder and looking at the shelves and realising that I was going to have to change a lot of the bits in there, like swapping tuna in brine for tuna in spring water, I hadn’t realised that we had so much work to do, and it did feel like quite a lot of work lay ahead!
We’ve learned so much. I just didn’t know that you needed a certain amount of dairy every day, for instance. And with the snacks, we used to have just fruit and vegetables, and it came as a bit of a surprise when Catherine started talking about including carbohydrates! So you learn so much but it feels great to be on such a journey.
And now I know it so well, I know exactly what I need in every single meal and snack. The good thing is that you can learn to feel confident making changes and making decisions, because you end up knowing the EYNP criteria inside out and backwards and forwards. In fact, I feel like I know it as well as I know the EYFS! So if something happens, if a delivery doesn’t turn up and I’m suddenly missing an ingredient, I have the knowledge and the confidence to manage that situation and make a swap that means I’m still delivering exactly what I need to deliver nutritionally.
It was a little bit of a challenge initially pitching it to the chefs, we had to discuss that you can’t just change an ingredient in a meal without ensuring that you replace it appropriately. But Catherine was a great help, she went into all four nurseries and spent a lot of time with the chefs and the individual setting managers, and really helped us all along. Some of the teams were a bit dubious about the changes to the menus, when Catherine asked us to introduce beans and pulses there was a bit of push back because everyone was convinced the children wouldn’t eat them. We had to point out that to start with we needed to serve them even if they didn’t get eaten! Catherine said, eventually they will, and she was right! Three, four, five, six weeks later, they were being eaten. Butter beans and lentils, who’d have thought! But unless you try new things, the children don’t have the chance to get to like them!
The face to face training was brilliant. Catherine came in and did a full day’s training with us, and the team really took it on board. Everybody came out of there and admitted that they hadn’t really thought about it in detail before, suddenly everyone was thinking about what they ate themselves, it made everyone think about what food they put in their own bodies, and made them all really interested in nutrition. Which in turn makes them much more motivated to teach the children about good and healthy food.
You have to commit to it and be prepared to work hard and make the changes, but it is such an amazing journey, and now I just look at what we have achieved with the Accredited Quality Mark and I am amazed and so happy! I personally want to get to the Specialist Quality Mark! I know its going to be hard, I’ve read what I have to do and its not easy but I really want us to get there. I just want to go further. We have to get the Advanced Quality Mark first, and having talked to Catherine I know we are not far off reaching Advanced in lots of the criteria, so we are really excited about that.
I am enrolling my four chefs on the Level 2 EYNP course, and we’re very excited for them to have the chance to do that. Chefs often don’t get the chance to do many training courses, they have to do food hygiene and food allergens but that’s it, and so it’s really nice for them to have the chance to do this and then be able to take more ownership of the way we approach food and nutrition.
One of the things I would say to other owners and managers who aren’t sure if this is for them is you have to think about all the rewards, you get so much out of it in every area. I think it has helped our relationships with our parents, a lot of them come in and say lovely things about the menus! And then there are all the benefits to the team, how we are eating and feeling better. And obviously the children, I feel as though they are actually quite knowledgeable, and we are going to be do cooking with them for three hours every day, which should ensure they have a real love of food! It’s all because of EYNP. And of course, we enjoy telling everybody about our achievements on social media, its taking pride of place on our new website, it’s on our parent’s board, and it’s in our handbook and we tell all the parents who come to look around all about it too. They want to know that their children are going to be fed well and be healthy, and our Accreditation shows them how committed we are to supporting them in that.
I feel so strongly about this, I’m passionate about it. But you’ve got to feel passionate about these children, they are our future after all. And we know that if they start learning now about how to eat, then in years to come they will understand what is good for them and what is not and that is a huge thing.
I’m lucky, I love my job and it makes me happy. I wake up in the morning and I want to go to work. But doing EYNP has made me happier and made me love my job even more. I couldn’t have done this on my own, I’d have been pulling my hair out trying to work it out, and now I know we are in a great position and I couldn’t be happier and prouder of our achievement.