Matron Swinton Childcare Centre commits to giving children a healthy start
Matron Swinton Child Care Centre, in Victoria’s Warrnambool, is a service that is committed to giving all its children a healthy start and understands the positive impact early childhood services can have on helping children establish healthy eating habits.
As a result of this commitment, the service has drawn on the expertise of evidence-based community programs including the Achievement Program, Smiles 4 Miles, the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS) and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation (SAKGF) to create a healthier environment.
Speaking with HEAS, kindergarten teacher and educational leader from the service, Alicia Bates, said that the support the service provided was a core element of making sure the service remains aligned to the healthy eating requirements of the National Quality Standard.
“Our service joined the Smiles 4 Miles program in 2015 and we’ve been participating ever since,” Alicia explained.
“Smiles 4 Miles gave us the foundations and referrals to the other programs, helping us to strengthen our initiatives.”
To ensure a whole-of-service approach to support healthy eating, the service also joined the free Achievement Program.
“We really wanted to embed healthy eating in our service’s policies, practices, culture and physical learning environment,” Alicia outlined.
“The Achievement Program gave us focus and direction and we aimed to receive Victorian Government recognition for meeting the program targets.”
Part of the journey through the Achievement Program and Smiles 4 Miles saw the service transform its menu with support from HEAS. Service cook, Carolyn Pulham, worked closely with HEAS to assess their menu, using HEAS’s online FoodChecker, which recommended healthier changes to the foods and drinks served.
The healthy changes Matron Swinton made were small and simple, for example adding more vegetables, swapping puff pastry for a healthier filo pastry and swapping out butter for margarine.
In addition, Matron Swinton staff completed HEAS’s free training about planning healthy menus and used HEAS resources to implement their learnings in the centre’s policies and procedures.
“The support I received from HEAS was great and I now feel confident and proud of the healthy options provided to our children. This welcome knowledge-boost has led to staff now role-modelling healthy eating behaviours,” Ms Pulham said.
“For example, the service has set up a ‘supermarket play space’ with healthy pretend food and drink toys to help children develop positive associations with them. Each day at lunch, educators chat about different food groups with the children such as vegetables and fruits.”
“Healthy behaviours such as drinking water are now daily challenges, with children filling their own drink bottles and cups. We make drinking water fun by having drink races and making our own ice blocks to put in drinks or to have like icy poles.”
The centre also participates in the SAKGF program, providing both children and staff with a hands-on, rewarding and enriching experience.
An infographic has been prepared for those services who wish to implement changes akin to those made at Matron Swinton, which may be accessed here.
The original coverage of this case study was produced by HEAS, and may be accessed here.