The early years sector is known for an ever-changing workforce, and our setting is no different. People come and go, the dynamics change. But one thing is always consistent: a love of food. We can't quite put our finger on it, but food really is a bonding feature of those marvellous souls who at some point or other are part of our banana moon lower sundon family.
We want to pass on that love of food. A fallout of the pandemic, we saw first hand, was a reticence across many children, to try any new foods, so we draw on our creative drive to make our food enticing, exciting and attractive, as well as healthy and for all diets.
A wise old bird (deputy Caroline, if you were lucky enough to meet her) always said 'children eat with their eyes'. How right she is.
We have around 6 menus a year: very varied, international, colourful, tasty and healthy. Something for everyone, catering to all allergies, dietary preferences and to support weaning. Our 'go to' is vegan, and we love the challenge of creating vegan dishes that all children will enjoy and want more of- our sweet potato and cauliflour curry is a firm favourite. We can have up to 7 dishes for any one mealtime, as we make sure we meet the needs of all our young wards - and it's a learning experience for us all.
Where we have fussy eaters, we ask them (or their parents and carers) what they'd like, and try to find ways to reflect that. Granted, we can't have chicken nuggets and chips everyday, but we can offer wedges and chicken pieces as an approximation...
We also like to offer the children the experience of exploring the ingredients they will eat, being mindful of food 'waste'. But using wonky or older veg for printing, oats to make flapjacks, putting spices in paint, sticking with orange peel, playing with the crest of a pineapple....all of these and many are simple ways to introduce children to food. They explore, we talk, we all learn.
And then there's homegrown. This is hands down my favourite activity to do with children. From the sensory play experience with compost and seeds, scooping and pouring into different containers, counting out seeds then hiding them in soil, to watering, sprouting, nurturing, measuring, cultivating and eating... Wonderful.
We have mini allotments on the field, recycle wooden crates as planters outside the nursery, have plant pots everywhere... Life will find a way. Once the last frost is done, that's it: move over Charlie Dimmock! (Or come plant with us... That would be fun...) All children, from the teeniest to the oldest, will get a chance to experience the wonder of planting. Most years we manage beans, peas, tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes and carrots. We always have mint and some herbs, and we always manage sweet peas - but these are not for eating, whatever the name! We learn ;)
Nurturing a love of food is part of who we are. We constantly discuss our lunches, dinners and most recent takeaway or sunday roast. We hope to pass on that love of food to our young wards. And honestly, you will always find the way to our hearts is through our stomachs #justsaying