Managing menus in times of uncertainty

By Annie Denny, EYN Partnership Nutrition Development Manager

Some settings providing for key workers are finding themselves in the position of needing to adapt menus to cope with fluctuating food supplies.

It’s important to note that there is enough food coming into UK retail system, but some retailers are limiting sales to ensure that food can be bought by a large number of customers.

Top tips

  • Speak directly to your local supermarket store manager to establish a relationship with them and to discuss options.
  • If you shop on line, set up a business account to order your groceries online, rather than using a personal account. Some retailers allow you to select “nursery” as a category of business. This is because if retailers can take action to support nurseries shopping for food, they need to be able to identify which online grocery accounts belong to nurseries.
  • Build links with local food suppliers such as greengrocers, butchers and plastic-free refillery shops. Many suppliers have introduced new or additional delivery services in recent weeks. Some ethnic food stores sell large packs, or even sacks, of items such as pasta and rice.
  • Some local fish and chip shops are selling 15kg bags of potatoes direct to customers. Many pasta recipes, such as pasta bakes, can be made with potatoes instead.
  • Adapt your menus to allow as much flexibility as possible. Broad titles for dishes such as “Fish of the day with seasonal green vegetables”, “Roast of the week with rainbow vegetables”, “Ocean Pie”, “Spring Soup” or “Roasted fruits with yogurt” allows you to flex ingredients to what’s available. Always remember to cross-check the suitability of different ingredients with your list of children’s food allergies.
  • Check “substitutions” that arrive in online grocery orders carefully for their allergen information. Different brands of the same product can contain different allergens. Different size versions within the same brand (e.g. mini versions of a standard product) can contain different allergens to the standard size versions.
  • Limit food waste and make food go further by ensuring portion sizes are appropriate. Research shows that many children are served too large a portion size. For tools to help ensure the right sized portion is served for each child, visit and
  • There are some great resources to help you track and reduce food waste within your business at
  • Speak with parents of children with food allergies to understand what milks the child can safely consume, in case of problems purchasing some non-dairy milk types. Be certain which types of milk (e.g. soya, oat, coconut) a child can and cannot have. Many versions are available in both the grocery and the chilled area of supermarkets so try both areas of the store. Remember that rice milk should not be given to children under 5 years of age, due to the levels of arsenic it contains.
  • There is enough food coming into the UK retail system but if you’re struggling to purchase certain food items, the following websites provide some great recipes. Remember that not all recipes will be suitable for young children (for example due to their salt content or ingredients that could be a choking hazard) so adapt recipes where necessary.

  • Some families may be struggling to access the foods they need at home, such as vulnerable families and key workers who work shifts. Its particularly important at the moment to help ensure food security for vulnerable and key worker families. Your setting may be able to play an innovative role in helping families to access esential items and cooked meals.