Feed Australia launches online ECEC menu planning tool
Australian Government initiative, feedAustralia, has recently launched a freely available online menu planning tool for early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, designed to support services to play their part in significantly reducing the obesity epidemic among young Australians.
The ‘business as usual’ online menu planning tool that has been developed to sit within existing childcare management systems, and includes a nutritional database of more than 200 healthy recipes and snack suggestions with established energy, macronutrient profiles and food group breakdowns. The recipes are designed to be easy to prepare and make use of easily available and seasonal ingredients.
The online menu planning tool provides:
- An online nutritional database that includes more than 200 healthy recipes and snack suggestions with established energy, macronutrient profiles and serve size recommendations;
- A translation of expert nutritional knowledge into everyday ‘best food selection’ equipping adults with the know-how, resources and confidence to provide healthy and nutritious meals to the children in their care;
- Nutrition resources, including suggestions and tips to reach food group recommendations and align with Australian Dietary Guidelines;
- A real – time assessment of menus against nutrient, energy and serving size data;
- Analytics to support food ordering;
- An automated assessment of menu compliance per child based on food combinations;
- An alert in real time when a planned menu does not adhere with Australian Dietary Guidelines or child dietary needs (e.g. allergies);
- Decreased wastage by generating automated shopping lists and greater management of portions;
- Translation of 2,000 foods typically consumed by Australians and frequented by child care services into food groups;
- Suggested meal or snack substitutions/suggestions that will enable menu compliance;
- Nutritional analysis of menus over time; and,
- Dashboards that demonstrate performance against Government indicators.
Janelle Evans, of Sweetpeas Kindergarten and Long Day Care Centre, Cranebrook, NSW described the program as easy to use, saying that a huge advantage of the program is the online menu planning tool which “clearly tells you when you are not providing enough of the food groups required to meet each child’s daily nutritional needs”.
Ms Evans also said “The program also makes it extremely simple to track our progress – pie charts and graphs can be generated at a touch of a button and inputted directly into our Quality Improvement Plan.”
The feedAustralia program, creators said, “translates world’s best nutritional know-how into an every day, ready-to-use menu planning tool, to support Australia’s 25,000 plus providers”.
Meals given to children in long day care account for up to 67 per cent of their daily nutritional requirements. According to Professor John Wiggers, Professor School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, the feedAustralia program is about “giving Directors, cooks and food handlers a seamless and fail safe menu planning tool that immediately determines if each dish meets Australian Dietary Guidelines”.
“We have heard from many providers that while they do their best to provide nutritious meals for their children, it is difficult to know whether each dish across their menus is meeting the guidelines,” Professor Wiggers said.
“The feedAustralia program bridges the gap between the world’s best nutritional expertise and the day-to-day practices of early childhood education and care providers. Essentially, it equips providers with an in-house dietician,” he said.
Cheryl Carberry, the cook from Little Beginnings at Warners Bay has been using the feedAustralia program since December 2016. “feedAustralia has given us the assurance that the meals we are giving our children every day meet Australian standards,” she said.
“The recipes are easy to prepare, make use of readily available seasonal produce, offers substitutions where required and can accommodate for food allergies and other individual dietary needs.
“The program also enables us to reduce food wastage as we now have a better understanding of quantities and portion sizes and can order more precisely the amounts required. And of course our children, and parents, love it.”
Providers can register to receive the feedAustralia program at feedaustralia.org.au