Dietary guidelines and the National Quality Framework
Early childhood education and care services are legally obliged to have a healthy eating and nutrition policy in place that meets the requirements of the National Quality Framework (NQF).
The NQF includes references to the health and nutrition of children in the following elements of the framework:
- National Law (e.g. Part 5)
- National Regulations (77–80, 168)
- National Quality Standard (Quality Area 2)
- Belonging, Being and Becoming (The Early Years Learning Framework)
- My Time, Our Place (The Framework for School Age Care).
Services should read each of these elements to learn what aspects apply to their service type.
Food and beverage requirements for services
Under the National Quality Standard (NQS) and the National Regulations all services (whether or not they provide food and beverages) are required to:
- actively promote healthy eating
- have in place policies and procedures in relation to nutrition, food and beverages, dietary requirements and ensure policies and procedures are followed
- ensure children have access to safe drinking water at all times
- ensure children are offered food and beverages appropriate to the needs of each child on a regular basis throughout the day.
In addition, services that provide food and beverages must:
- ensure that food and beverages are nutritious and adequate in quantity
- ensure that food and beverages are appropriate for each child's growth and developmental needs and cultural, religious or health requirements
- have the weekly menu displayed and accessible to parents and carers of children being educated and cared for by the service
- ensure that the weekly menu accurately describes the food and beverages to be provided by the service each day.
Healthy eating and the National Quality Standard
Education and care services are assessed and rated against the 7 Quality Areas of the National Quality Standard (NQS). Healthy eating and children's nutrition is included in
Quality Area 2 – Children's health and safety. In particular, element 2.1.3 states that:
Healthy eating and physical activity are promoted and appropriate for each child
Promoting a healthy diet is an important part of supporting children's health and safety in an early childhood education and care service. Regardless of whether or not food is provided by the service, the service has a responsibility to promote good nutrition for your child while they are in care.
Developing a healthy eating policy
All early childhood education and care services should have a policy on healthy eating that outlines how children will be provided with healthy food while in care.
A service that provides food for children should have a policy that talks about the service's responsibilities for meeting children's nutritional requirements, and that outlines how this will be achieved. A service where families provide the majority of their child's food should have a policy that explains how families will be supported and encouraged to provide healthy food for their children.
Managing allergies and other special dietary needs
Due to allergies, food intolerances, cultural background or family lifestyle preferences, some children may have very specific food requirements. In supporting the principles of inclusion, services should work with families to make sure that individual children's needs are met. In some instances services may need to develop additional policies to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children. For example, where a child has an anaphylactic allergic reaction to certain foods, the service will need to develop policies and procedures to protect the child. If applicable, a notice stating that an enrolled child has been diagnosed as at risk of anaphylaxis is required, however the notice should not identify the child. Parents and carers should check with their service for specific policies on food.
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display of information.
Some early childhood education and care services will
require a food licence under the
Food Act 2006 and there are specific food safety requirements associated with this licence. Non-licensable services are also required to comply with the Act and food safety standards.