Hello! My name is Sarah London, I’m the Chef at Merryfields Nursery in Fareham and am also the Company Lead for Food and Nutrition at Growing Places. I have worked at Growing Places for 2 years now and both of my children are Growing Places children.
I’m here to tell you a bit about our food and why we want to shout about it!
Eat the Rainbow
All our food is produced on site by our team of knowledgeable and dedicated Cooks. Our menus reflect the seasons; making the most of what is plentiful, of best quality and the highest in nutrients. Our menus are created to appeal to children’s senses, allowing them to experience a diverse range of colours, flavours, aromas and textures.
Homemade Wherever Possible
Our meals are prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients. Homemade bread, pastry and cakes feature daily on our menus. Children are involved in cooking activities and adventures in food exploration. As we are a charitable organisation, we purchase much of our fresh and store cupboard ingredients from Fareshare, (a charity who redirect surplus food from supermarkets to other charitable organisations such as ourselves). Other local supermarkets such as Aldi and M&S make regular food donations too. When in season we make trips with the children to buy locally grown fruit, vegetables, and free-range eggs from nearby farm shops, pick your own farms. We also harvest the vegetables and herbs grown in our garden.
As we follow a pescatarian menu, fish is included across our menus once or twice per week. Our Cook’s pride themselves on their creativity and are experts on the tastes and requirements of the children in their setting. By eating meat-free meals, our children are introduced to many different types of vegetables, pulses and beans and are often surprisingly adventurous!
Our menus are designed to ensure that food and drink provided is balanced across the day and meets children’s nutritional requirements. We use wholegrain cereals, bread products, rice, pasta, and flour. Recipes are adapted to reduce the amount of refined sugar. No salt is added during the cooking process nor is it available at the table. We check labels for added salt in pre-prepared products such as stocks, gravies, and sauces, with lower salt options will being used wherever possible. Meals are served to children in suitable sized plates and bowls and in appropriately sized portions. The older children are encouraged to serve themselves at the table, with support from staff when needed. All children in setting eat a hot lunch and pudding and no food may be brought in from home.
Babies and children always have access to fresh drinking water. The older children have water cooler or water jug in the family room from which they can help themselves throughout the day. Milk is offered at snack time, (or a suitable non-daily alternative). No fruit juice or squash is served in setting.
Positive Food Relationships
Children are given the opportunity to explore a wide variety of dishes. They are encouraged to try new foods but are never forced to eat something that they do not wish to. Pudding is offered after the first course but is not used as bribe. Through daily discussion about food and its purpose, children learn about the importance and benefits of healthy eating.
Meals are served to children sat in small groups or pods. Tables are set with tablecloths, table decorations, glasses, crockery, and cutlery. Children help to set up the tables and clear away and after each meal. Once they are able, children serve themselves at the table family-style and pour their own drinks. Good table etiquette is always encouraged and is modelled by staff.
I hope you have enjoyed reading. Look out for my blog posts next year to find out about what our children have been eating, cooking, growing, and exploring at Growing Places!