Nurseries feeding children on junk food that costs 25p a meal

'Undercover mums' to pose as prospective parents and report back on catering

An army of undercover mothers is to be recruited to go into nurseries and report back on the food after concerns that some youngsters are being fed on a budget of just 25p per meal.

Mothers posing as prospective parents will check up on the quality of the meals and snacks being served, as part of the Better Nursery Food Now campaign, after concerns that children in nurseries were eating junk food which would be banned in schools.

Campaigners have launched a Facebook campaign to call on the Government to set clear nutritional standards for all nurseries, and for parents to post their experiences of their children's food at nursery. Its petition has already attracted 4,338 signatures. The campaign, run by the Soil Association and the food company Organix, is demanding that the Government set mandatory standards for nursery meals.

A Soil Association spokeswoman said: "There are all these amazing things that have happened for school meals, but nothing for children in nurseries – who are arguably the most vulnerable. We think this is unacceptable, and we want changes to be made urgently."

Organix, which makes organic baby food, has already asked its online community of about 4,000 mothers to undertake undercover inspections of nursery food, and hopes many more will join the campaign. Anna Guyer, a spokeswoman for Organix, said: "We are looking for undercover mums who could go around two or three nurseries and complete a questionnaire about the food. A lot of people who are really interested in organic food at home say that it wasn't something that they even thought about when they chose their child's nursery, and yet it is so very important."

The campaign's 2008 report, Georgie Porgy Pudding and Pie, was the first ever study that looked in detail at the quality of food given to children attending nurseries in the UK. It found that some nurseries spent as little as 25p per meal per child. It also discovered that colourings and additives that are banned in manufactured foods for children were regularly being permitted in nurseries. Foods such as chips, sweets and chocolate were still regularly served in nurseries. A spokeswoman said: "Since the publication of the report, despite widespread support from parents, the Government has failed to take the lead on the crucial issue of nourishing the next generation."

There is currently no compulsory training for nursery staff serving food, no clear nutritional standards and no agency to monitor the quality of food provided. There are approximately 13,600 nurseries in England, with more than 588,000 children attending. On average parents pay £159 per week, or just over £31 a day, for a child under two to go to nursery. The report found that a very small fraction of this cost goes on food: on average just three to six per cent of the cost of sending a child to nursery is spent on food for the child.

Gemma Spratt, a mother who has posted her experiences on the campaign's Facebook page, wrote: "My daughter doesn't go to a nursery and this was one of the reasons why. I was told she would be given cakes and I would have to manage her behaviour if she kicked off because I wouldn't allow her to have cake. This is even more key than school dinners in my eyes as if we can start them off with good eating habits then that's a lifelong love of healthy food."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said there was already a legal requirement for all childcare providers to offer healthy and nutritious meals. He added: "Ofsted inspects all childcare settings on these legal requirements, and they would take action if they were not being met. We trust their judgement and are encouraged by their own survey, which rated the majority of providers as good or outstanding in relation to providing a healthy diet. They concluded that child carers have embraced the concept of healthy eating and said that the picture looks good for younger children."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Restaurant Manager / Sommelier

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Poole

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn