Food Catering In A Long Day Care Service

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Food Catering In A Long Day Care Service

Post by bloss_16 » Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:08 am

Hi! I have a 3.5 DD who is reasonably adventurous with food. She will try anything a number of times before deciding whether or not she likes it, and prefers (thankfully) savoury over sweet, not at all concerned by texture. So all in all a great eater. As a result her lunchbox is very easy to put together. Typically made from a bit of everything in the fridge with combinations of various forms of the following - wholemeal sandwich/wrap, cheese/yoghurt, wholemeal crackers, small "salad" which is generally whole or large sticks carrot/green beans/cheery tomatoes/celery/capsicum of any colour/corn/cucumber etc small amount of dried fruit like prunes/apricots plus some seeds and nuts on the days they allow, boiled egg. So all plain food but healthy and simple and apart from the bread/wrap and I guess the couple of rice/water cracker/corn thins etc it is all home prepared and unprocessed. She likes raw food and generally all is devoured - lucky me to have an easily pleased kid. Her older brother not as easy but he's coming along from his clear preference for all things protein....

The daycare DD attends 3 days a week, who we already have confirmed placings and pricing for next year have just informed us yesterday that they are starting a trial of providing all food at the centre which will be prepared and delivered daily by an external food prep/catering company. Where as until this point we have previously provide all our own foods. There will be additional cost but we have not yet been told what this is. Yesterday we were advised by email that a trial starts for 2 weeks on Monday and if successful will become compulsory from January 2016.

I've been able to source 2 weekly sample menus and they are what you would typically expect a nutritionist to provide in a meal planner
Monday - Tuna and ricotta
Tuesday - Beef Oat and Rice Meatballs with Gravy and brown rice
Wednesday - Lamb, beef and lentil Dhal, spiced couscous
Thursday - Vegetarian pizza w sweet potato, capsicum, zucchini, corn and cheese
Friday - Chicken, apricot and sweet potato stew w basmati rice
Everyday also has fruit with some sort of bread/muffin or biscuit as morning and afternoon tea

I think the decision from daycare started out as a frustration over some parents consistently sending "unhealthy" lunches. This ranges in anything from Chips & Cake at one end of the spectrum to the cruskits/meat/cheese for the fussy eaters. No amount of parent meetings or newsletter reminders have changed this. But now I suspect an underlying profit motivation as the final decision is coming from the business development manager (our centre is part of a school) who has never met my child.

I have a few concerns with all this and I just wanted to see if I'm the only person out there that sees things differently
1. Is the above menu really necessary?
I've seen so many similar menus on a lot of child nutrition websites and handouts from seminars. When did meeting nutritional needs become so complicated? Surely a lunchbox of raw fruit/veg, with a dairy option, wholemeal/grain option and protein item ticks all the boxes regardless of the form? What happened to simple, unprocessed food for lunch?

2. Is this really sending the right message to the kids?
To me this menu is teaching my child "you can't possibly pack your own lunch, good food comes in a container that someone else cooked yesterday, and you reheat today". This doesn't seem to be a step in the right direction if we are trying to teach our kids to make good choices. Right now, DD helps with the weekly shop picking fruit and veg she likes or wants to try. We buy fruit and veg that it in season, and sometimes seconds, to keep the cost down. She helps pack lunch when I can manage it in daylight hours and if not, she tells me what she likes and I tell her if I have it or not to pack for tomorrow.

3. Is it the right message for parents?
I recall seeing these nutritional menus when DS was little and freaking out. I'm a working mum with average cooking skills. I panicked that I didn't have the talent or time (or funds) to prepare this kind of weekly line up, for dinner let alone lunch and forget weekly rotations! What I quickly realised is that my kids are fine with simple food. Our standard dinner routine is, in various thin disguises - Roast (2 family dinners), Beef/chicken/lamb and veg (2 dinners), Pasta/rice (1or 2 dinners), 1 BBQ dinner (like sausages or skewers), 1 egg or family dinner out depending on time and budget! Nothing fancy but everyone eats it and no one complains! Should parents be made to feel that the only option is "gourmet" when a meal plan from my house is adequate but certainly wouldn't earn a catering company a gold star?

4. Why is this such a popular and growing trend?
I am assuming that there has to be a profit margin in it for the centre. Surely having a child take their lunch box out of the fridge, eat and return it to the fridge is less work for than having to receive, store, reheat, serve and clean up. Also bearing in mind the food safety process needs to be documented and audited. I'd rather the staff have a conversation with my DD about what it in the lunch box over lunch rather than be stacking and unstacking dishwashers.
The food company lists staff productivity gains a benefit but what do carers what to be productively doing, engaging with children or serving food? Also if a number of parents are consistently sending inappropriate food - why not deal with those parents directly?

5. Who's the parent
Now when DD's lunchbox comes home I can see what she has and hasn't eaten. Serving food takes that away. Also I will have to plan evening meals with a cooked lunch in mind - for example even I would feel a bit slack if I dished up fried rice for dinner on a day she happened to each Meatballs and rice for lunch!! For me, food chaos is kept at bay but planning my weekly food from shop plate for 3 meals a day. I am happy to parent my child and not have the centre, food provider and other parents (by way of allergy based dietary restrictions being imposed on the class) running my weekly routine.

6. Convenience?
The centre is also spooking that this will save me time. But given I already have to prepare school lunches for DS, the time saving is minimal. I'd rather have the inconvenience of an extra wrap, than have my kid miss out the life lessons she is getting now.

7. Expectations?
This is not what I'll be dishing up in her Prep lunchbox in 2 years time, and not for high school, I dare say she won't herself for uni or first years of work. And unless DD intends on earning a handsome salary from a job located next to a gourmet eatery she still won't be making or buying lunches like this ever!

OK - So I've gotten a bit carried away. I can think of 10 other reason to write down but I will bit my tongue. I'm typically easy going and open minded but I feel like I'm the only sane person in the discussion about this with my daycare centre. So with that in mind, I thought I would see what other professional cares think and have experienced. All the pros and cons from any perspective please - don't hold back!! Thanks

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Re: Food Catering In A Long Day Care Service

Post by Lorina » Sat Nov 14, 2015 5:40 am

It's great to read your point of view from a parents perspective!

Thank you so much for sharing!!

In long day care, when putting together a menu plan by law we need to follow the appropriate guidelines.The Menu planning guidelines for long day care are based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and are consistent with the recommendations in the Australian Government’s Get Up & Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood.

These are all necessary to maintain high quality and standards to achieve Quality Area 2 of the National Quality Standard (the National Quality Standard are guidelines that all early childhood settings must follow by law).

The menu should be varied and should meet the social and cultural needs of children. This means that:
• the menu includes a variety of meals from different cultures
• the menu includes a variety of tastes, colours, textures (e.g. crunchy, soft) and flavours
• main meals are not repeated in a two-week menu cycle
• the main ingredient in a meal is not repeated on the same day each week (e.g. fish is not provided every Friday only).

This is not all... We should also:

- Offer 1 children’s serve of lean meat, poultry, fish or alternatives per child per day
- Include vegetarian meals on the menu at least once per fortnight for variety.
- Offer 1 children’s serve of fruit* per child per day
- A variety of vegetables and/or legumes should be provided, at least 2–3 different types per day and 5 different types per week.
- Offer 2 children’s serves of milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or calcium fortified alternatives per child per day

Along with the above points there are also details on how many grams of meat, poultry etc. should be given to each child, the types of fruits and vegetables to be served as well as the milk, cheese serves required for each child per day. There are also more recommendations if the centre is offering breakfast and late snack.

Ref: Menu Planning Guidelines in LDC

For children who have special dietary or religious requirements, separate food is prepared for these children depending on their specific needs.

In regards to the children and the menu it does take some time for them to get used to the different types of foods on offer. The textures and the tastes especially. You'll get some kids who will eat anything then you get the fussy ones that just stare at it wondering what has just been served in front of them. For those children who don't end up eating it, they can't just eat nothing so typically they just get the "plain" version. So, it could be plain rice or pasta depending on what's on offer. I can't speak for all centres, just those I've had experience with.

A food chart will also be put up for parents to view. This will have your child's name along with how much they ate at each meal. So, it could be "taste", "half", "3/4", "full", "2 serves" etc. You can use this to find out how much your child has eaten for the day.

The parents who bring in "junk food" for their child it is extremely frustrating for the staff, especially when we have to abide by certain food guidelines. It doesn't matter how many newsletters get sent home, or brochures of the types of food allowed or a list of options of what to buy some parents unfortunately don't have the time and still send "junk food" to the centre. As part of regulations we can't allow this so providing food for children is the easiest option really...

As an educator I just wanted to share with you why the menu is the way that it is. I don't think that centres really give too much details to parents as to the necessities and requirements of creating such an extensive menu.

As a parent to a fussy toddler myself I completely understand where you are coming from! My toddler is vegetarian so the menu sample you had given would not work at all for my toddler and she is very fussy about the foods given to her! So, if I put her in a day care food is going to be a problem!

I hope I have provided you with some information to help you gain an understanding of the menu planning guidelines in long day care....


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Re: Food Catering In A Long Day Care Service

Post by Lorina » Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:42 pm

Just wanted to check up...Has the centre started catering yet?


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