Children need healthy and nutritious food to help them learn and thrive in every area of their development.

Access to healthy food builds children’s long-term health and can help reduce obesity and tooth decay, both of which disproportionately affect more disadvantaged children. 

Making nutritious food affordable and accessible

For many of the 1.5m children a year who attend an Early Years setting, a nursery-made meal – if they are lucky enough to get one – may be the only hot nutritious meal they have in a day. This reinforces why healthy meals must be universally accessible. 

While surging food prices are pushing too many families towards less healthy options at home, nurseries can play a radical role in turning the tide: they are uniquely placed to cook fresh food at scale and efficiently improve childrens health. 

Child at lunchtime with fork

LEYF’s vision for a healthy Early Years food system 

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A broken Early Years food system

A history of under-funding and lack of training and support within the Early Years sector has led to too many settings struggling to serve healthy food to children. Our research with the Early Years Alliance highlighted some of the challenges and consequences: 

  • 94% of settings said their food provision was impacted by the rising cost of food 
  • 62% of settings were forced to use cheaper ingredients, while 46% have been forced to push on higher costs to parents 
  • 49% of settings are seeing signs of food insecurity amongst their families 
  • 27% of settings were sometimes serving salty snacks like crisps to young children 

To make our vision a reality and better support children and families, we need to transform the Early Years food system. 

Child eating food with a fork

How LEYF is working to achieve this vision 

LEYF has a unique opportunity and platform to help drive positive change in the Early Years food system:   

LEYF’s role as an operator 

We will continue to improve our own approach and practice to nutrition, food education and mealtimes, while drawing out lessons that can help others, and shining a spotlight on what a whole-nursery approach to healthy food looks like 

LEYF’s role as a leader 

We will identify solutions for supporting other Early Years settings to overcome challenges and improve their food practice; from training for staff to developing helpful resources. We have developed the first-of-its-kind Early Years Chef Academy course to train chefs to be the best in the business, and will continue using our experience and research to find new ways to provide support.  

LEYF’s role as an Influencer 

We will work with others to advocate for the importance of children’s nutrition and health and push for government policy that puts children’s health first. Following our research with providers, we are calling on the government to provide additional Early Years funding to cover the cost of meals and snacks in settings, a proposal supported by 82% of settings who participated. 

Children serving themselves food at lunchtime

Research to inform our work 

To ensure our work is informed by evidence and experience, we conduct research with partners. 

Research with other settings 

Alongside the Early Years Alliance, we conducted research with over 500 early years settings to understand how they were coping with the increasing cost of food.  

Read more here. 

Evaluating Chef Academy 

To continually improve our Early Years Chef Academy, and better understand its impact and the barriers to improving food in Early Years settings, we commissioned an external evaluation of the training.  

Read more here. 

Research with families 

We are currently working alongside Researchers from Middlesex University, the University of Surrey, and Glasgow Caledonian University to better understand how social enterprises, like LEYF, can improve local food systems for families. This involves primary research with families in London.  

If you are interested in collaborating, please get in touch.

Children eating a meal in the nursery

Food and nutrition

Healthy eating and nutrition are a priority at LEYF.

Children exploring different fruits with the nursery

Early Years Chef Academy

We train chefs and teachers to be experts in child nutrition and to help children, staff and parents build healthy habits for life.

Staff and Child playing with playdough

Advocacy and campaigns

We use experience gained from decades of working in Early Years to shape our service and lobby for changes.