Dandenong service engages HEAS to help children build lifelong habits
Fifth Avenue Childcare, located in the Victorian suburb of Dandenong, is dedicated to promoting healthy eating and supporting children to build lifelong healthy eating habits with support from the Achievement Program and the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS).
The service has completed three of the Achievement Program’s health priority areas and recently identified eating habits and oral health as another important area of focus, engaging the free services of HEAS to implement healthy changes.
Educator Veronica Morales said that being Achievement Program members for several years has sharpened the teams focus on healthy eating and lifestyle habits, with children participating in activities such as:
- cooking experiences which have a cultural lens including halal, vegetarian and vegan recipes;
- learning about growing healthy produce using the Centre’s vegetable garden;
- fresh food discovery tours at Woolworths to improve children’s knowledge about different fruits and vegetables; and,
- healthy eating conversations at lunchtime with educators’ role modelling healthy eating behaviours with the children.
The service has a healthy eating policy that is widely promoted, based on a free policy template which was jointly created by the Achievement Program, HEAS and Smiles for Miles, and Achievement Program team member support.
Healthy eating information is provided to staff and families through regular newsletters which offer healthy recipe ideas, food tips, healthy lunchbox suggestions and oral health information, and the service assesses its menu each week using HEAS’s free online menu assessment tool, FoodChecker.
Each week, the onsite cook creates a menu which is entered into FoodChecker to make sure it complies with the Victorian Menu planning guidelines for long day care and ensures it is nutritious and supports long-term growth and development. Educators at the centre also completed HEAS’s free online training module about how to provide and promote healthy foods and drinks in long day care.
These joint healthy eating efforts have had a widespread positive impact, with improved health awareness and attitudes towards healthy eating, an Achievement Program spokesperson said.
“We are seeing children bring healthier lunch boxes, which shows parents are making a concerted efforts when planning lunches and snacks. Our educators also note the positive attitudes children have developed towards healthy foods and drinking more water. Collectively, our knowledge of healthy eating has improved immensely, leading to healthy eating behaviours becoming a new norm,” Ms Morales added.
Throughout the healthy eating journey, the service has drawn on the expertise of Monash Health’s health promotion team which believes the healthy changes have been an enriching experience for the Fifth Avenue community.
“I commend the commitment of the staff who worked together to achieve recognition for the Achievement Program’s Health Priority Area of Healthy Eating and Oral Health. At times, there were challenges, but the Centre continued to demonstrate a willingness to improve and accomplish all the elements of the Health Priority Area,” Katrina Stevenson, health promotion practitioner said.
More information about the Achievement Program is available here.