Healthy eating in the early years: A qualitative exploration of food provision in the childminder setting
Goldsborough , N.
Homer , C.
Atchinson , R.
Purpose\ud – A nutritious diet is critical to the health and development of pre-school children. Children in the UK consume much food outside the home yet day-care food provision is unregulated, and informed by disparate and conflicting dietary guidelines. Factors affecting nursery food provision have been much studied, but less is known about food provision in the child-minder setting. The purpose of this paper is to examine factors influencing child-minders’ food provision.\ud \ud Design/methodology/approach\ud – Qualitative methods were employed, combining participant observation with semi-structured interviews. Participants were selected via purposive and convenience sampling. Eight child-minders from an English borough were interviewed.\ud \ud Findings\ud – The food provided by child-minders was not consistent with dietary guidelines for young children, following menu plans was reported to be difficult, and knowledge about healthy eating guidelines for young children was various. Child-minders reported limited time for food preparation, and problems catering for fussy children. Some child-minders obtained support through an informal peer network group. Only one child-minder reported availing of professional nutritional advice on healthy food provision. Communication with parents about food was considered important, although there was some evidence of discord between providers and parents in dietary objectives.\ud \ud Research limitations/implications\ud – The study was small in size and regionally based. Due to the local nature of the study, it is not possible to make generalisations to the wider national context. Corroboration of the findings is necessary in a larger study.\ud \ud Practical implications\ud – Child-minders have a pivotal role to play in the nutritional health and development of young children, and whilst their interest in provision of nutritious food was great, outside support was lacking. Support should include provision of one clear set of authoritative guidelines, practical guidance that accommodates the realities of providing food in the child-minder setting, investment to strengthen support structures at local level and the development of network groups.\ud \ud Originality/value\ud – Whilst the factors underpinning food provision in nurseries have been examined in various regions of the UK, little attention has been given to child-minder settings. The current study addresses this gap.