Eat Better Start Better

Date: 11 Aug 2011

Eat Better Start Better - A School Food Trust Project to Support Young Children and their Families to Cook and Eat Well

Cooking training for staff at Sure Start centres across the country has paved the way for a new national pilot programme designed to help families with young children to eat and cook more healthily.

Learning from the Cook4Life project - in which staff at 60 Sure Start bases learned how to run sessions for families on cooking healthy meals from scratch - has helped the School Food Trust and Let's Get Cooking to develop a new national pilot scheme.

The 'Eat Better, Start Better' pilot, which is funded by the Department for Education and will begin in five local authorities in November, will include comprehensive training for childcare providers on running practical cooking sessions with families. In addition, the pilot will also see the development of national, voluntary guidelines for food and drink provision in early years settings and an early years code of practice for food and drink.

Staff at Sure Start centres in Blackpool, Lancashire, Cumbria, Bath and North East Somerset, Wiltshire and Torbay had the original cooking training from Let's Get Cooking, commissioned and funded by the Department of Health's Change4Life programme.

David Edwards, Director of Let's Get Cooking, said: "This work really did help us to shape the larger programme we're now delivering. Parents who took part told us that they do cook from scratch more often at home now and have improved their diet, which is fantastic to hear from just six sessions of practical cooking training.

"Above all, what children eat and learn about food at this age does set the foundations for their health in the future which is why we're so pleased to be delivering this new pilot for Government."

Chantelle Boughton, Activity Coordinator for the Thames Children's Centre in Blackpool, said: "We'd never done cooking classes at the centre before, but we knew it was something that we needed to do because some of the children we work with just weren't getting a good diet at home.

"We got the parents on our courses to choose what they wanted to cook - it was things like cottage pie, lasagne and spaghetti bolognese. Some of our parents said they'd never realised how much you could get out of a basic Bolognese recipe.

"My advice to other centres taking part in this pilot would be that the more staff you can get trained, the better."

Local authorities being invited to participate in the new pilot are now receiving information.  For further information about Eat Better Start Better and the voluntary guidelines for food and drink provision in early years settings, visit the School Food Trust website: