Children spend a large portion of their day in early years and school age settings. Many licensed child care programs provide well-balanced snacks and lunches for children while kindergarten and school age programs may require children to attend prepared with their own food. Educators must be knowledgeable of appropriate nutritional principles and practices for children from birth to 12 years of age.
Many children have specific dietary requirements which must be considered and adhered to when preparing and serving food for children in early years settings. Dietary Planners and Supervisors must obtain a Safe Food Handler’s Certificate to ensure food is safely stored, prepared, and served for children. Educators prepare the environment and role model healthy eating habits for young children. Chapter four will discuss the importance of social and emotional learning associated with nutrition. The slow food movement, sustainable practices and a connection to the land will be discussed to guide educators in supporting children’s development of healthy relationships with food.
Families are the most important partners in supporting inclusive dietary and eating practices in early years settings. Dietary planners, families, educators, supervisors, and dietitians work in collaboration to ensure the nutritional needs of children are being met through written and verbal communication. Inviting families into the menu planning process supports the creation of inclusive and diverse menus, typically including snacks and lunches. Chapter four will discuss the menu development tools available in Canada to ensure appropriate dietary practices are embedded in early years settings. Reflections around relationships with food will be considered to support students and new graduates in developing positive mindsets towards the social, cultural, religious, economic, and environmental food practices in settings that honour diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).