Darlington College’s Childcare Centre celebrates after achieving one of the first Healthy Early Years Awards in Darlington

A CHILDCARE centre has served up food for thought after achieving one of the first healthy early years awards in Darlington.

Darlington College Childcare Centre has put healthy eating high on the agenda, along with oral health and physical literacy as it seeks to give children the best start in life.

In Darlington, more than 20 per cent of children aged ten-11 years are living with obesity (2019/20).

The award, which is run by Darlington Borough Council, recognises those childcare settings that have taken steps to ensure they serve only healthy foods, drinks and snacks, and incorporate food education and understanding into the curriculum and physical activity into daily routines.

Staff at the Childcare Centre are supporting parents by ensuring their children are served healthy snacks and a nutritious, hot, homemade lunch every day that is cooked on site with no processed food at all. Any surplus fruit and vegetables are made available for families to take home.

Centre manager Andi Brennan said: “We are really proud to have achieved one of the first healthy early years awards. It’s a passion of mine but we also have a great cook and the whole team has taken it on board to make sure we offer the children only healthy food and lifestyles with positive healthy messages around the nursery.

“I want other settings to know it’s doable. You might have to change a few things but it’s fun and it makes a difference for the children. If we put them at the heart of everything we do then we can’t go wrong.”

Cook Adele Walmsley explained that food is boiled and baked with very little frying, and the children are presented with a range of fruit and vegetables that are seasonal. “We put them on the tables so they get to look at them and try them. Some children have never seen pineapples or strawberries before. Everybody loves peas but on that day we might put out a bowl of turnip as well and encourage them to try it. Then we cook the vegetables in dishes where they’re not obvious to the children and they are eating things they say they don’t like.”

Councillor Jon Clarke, cabinet member for children, young people and education, presented the Childcare Centre with its award and said: “It’s brilliant, I’m 100 per cent behind it and I will be banging the drum for other settings to try for the award.”

Darlington College Childcare Centre, which is rated outstanding by Ofsted, is part of the college and non-profit making. It is available for staff and students but is also open to local families who benefit from their babies and children being able to socialise together and, in the pre-school class, learning to be independent in preparation for school.

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