Fifth Avenue Childcare Centre in Dandenong is continuing to help children build lifelong healthy eating habits with support from the Achievement Program and the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS).
The Centre has completed three of the Achievement Program’s health priority areas and recently identified eating habits and oral health as another important area of focus, engaging the free services of HEAS to implement healthy changes.
Centre educator Veronica Morales said, “We’ve been Achievement Program members for several years and are working hard to support our children to lead healthy lifestyles. Most recently we’ve focussed on healthy eating and oral health. Through our work in the program we’ve been able to draw on the expertise and services of well-respected Achievement Program partners like HEAS.”
Some of the healthy eating activities children have participated in include:
- cooking experiences which have a cultural lens including halal, vegetarian and vegan recipes
- learning about growing healthy produce using the Centre’s vegetable garden
- fresh food discovery tours at Woolworths to improve children’s knowledge about different fruits and vegetables
- healthy eating conversations at lunchtime with educators’ role modelling healthy eating behaviours with the children.
More broadly, the Centre has developed a healthy eating policy that is widely promoted. To help establish a well-rounded and useful policy, the Centre used a free policy template (jointly created by the Achievement Program, HEAS and Smiles for Miles) and Achievement Program team member support. In addition, further healthy eating information has been provided to staff and families through regular newsletters which offer healthy recipe ideas, food tips, healthy lunchbox suggestions and oral health information.
Another key initiative is the ongoing use of the HEAS services which includes assessing the Centre’s menu using HEAS’s free online menu assessment tool, FoodChecker. Each week, the on-site cook creates a menu which is entered into FoodChecker to make sure it complies with the Victorian Menu planning guidelines for long day care and ensures it is nutritious and supports long-term growth and development. The Centre also completed HEAS’s free online training module about how to provide and promote healthy foods and drinks in long day care.
These joint healthy eating efforts have had a widespread positive impact, with improved health awareness and attitudes towards healthy eating.
“We are seeing children bring healthier lunchboxes, which shows parents are making a concerted efforts when planning lunches and snacks. Our educators also note the positive attitudes children have developed towards healthy foods and drinking more water. Collectively, our knowledge of healthy eating has improved immensely, leading to healthy eating behaviours becoming a new norm,” Ms Morales said.
Throughout the healthy eating journey, the Centre has drawn on the expertise of Monash Health’s health promotion team which believes the healthy changes have been an enriching experience for the Centre’s community.
“I commend the commitment of the staff who worked together to achieve recognition for the Achievement Program’s Health Priority Area of Healthy Eating and Oral Health. At times, there were challenges, but the Centre continued to demonstrate a willingness to improve and accomplish all the elements of the Health Priority Area,” said Katrina Stevenson, health promotion practitioner.