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food choices

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, 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. Children should have their own toothbrush, regularly replaced, to use at the service.

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, the service should at least be registered with the environmental health, with staff training certificates for food handling and hygiene, and have a healthy eating policy 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 new 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.

Further information can also be found in the SOSCN publication Inspired Healthy Eating for Out of School Care

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