food choices

Under the Health and Social Care Standards (Scottish Government, 2017), it states that users of health and social care services (which includes OSC) should experience the following:

“Eating and drinking

  • 1.33  I can choose suitably presented and healthy meals and snacks, including fresh fruit and vegetables, and participate in menu planning.
  • 1.34  If I need help with eating and drinking, this is carried out in a dignified way and my personal preferences are respected.
  • 1.35  I can enjoy unhurried snack and meal times in as relaxed an atmosphere as possible.
  • ...
  • 1.37  My meals and snacks meet my cultural and dietary needs, beliefs and preferences.
  • 1.38  If appropriate, I can choose to make my own meals, snacks and drinks, with support if I need it, and can choose to grow, cook and eat my own food where possible.
  • 1.39  I can drink fresh water at all times.”

At registration, and every six months, parents and children should update the information on the child's dietary needs and preferences. This is especially important for recording of allergies and cultural preferences or religious beliefs, as well as any other relevant information relating to a child's general needs.

Breakfast clubs provide a choice of nutritious food to start the day and most after school clubs provide healthy snacks, fruit, water, breadsticks, toast, soup etc., rather than a full meal. For all day and holiday clubs, and trips, parents may be asked to provide a healthy packed lunch. A child filling up on high sugar level snacks or empty calories will likely have extreme spikes in energy levels and feel hungry again, long before the end of the day, making it harder for them to join in physical activities and games, therefore it is in the child's best interest that a nutritious lunch is prepared, as recommended by the service, taking into account each child's own needs, likes and cultural preferences.

Children should have access to drinking water at all times and services should provide fresh fruit or vegetables as part of their range of snacks.

Parents should ask to see recent menus and any feedback on them from children or parents. Children should not normally bring in their own sweets or snacks, unless required as part of dietary need (e.g. for glucose levels).

Notwithstanding the level of kitchen use and hot or cold food preparation and storage, if the service is providing any form of food snack, then legally it must be registered with, and inspected by, environmental health. Staff training certificates for food handling and hygiene as well as a healthy eating policy should all be in place. Staff should be well trained and understand children's different cultural diets and preferences and pay particular attention to notes of allergies or adverse reactions to certain food.

Even where a service does not have much access to kitchen and cooking equipment, it is still quite possible to include food preparation in the children's programme of activities, teaching children about culture, hygiene and nutrition. Eating together is also a social activity and services can make this a feature, as well as involving children in setting tables, preparing and serving snacks and clearing up afterwards. Children can be quite conservative about trying new food but services often have themed activities which involve introducing tastes of foods from a variety of cultures, and some also have gardening projects where children learn to grow, pick and prepare different types of vegetables and fruit.

last updated: 07/07/2023