There are currently 1.3 million children utilising Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services in Australia. Long day care (LDC), family day care and out of school hours care currently provide this service in different environments. This research reports findings from a LDC perspective. Children can consume 40–67% of their food intake whilst at LDC services, this highlights the importance of monitoring food provision at a service level. There are several methods to measure food provision which typically focus on intake at an individual level. There is limited evidence of measuring food provision accurately at a service level and for young children. Accurate and consistent dietary assessment methods are required to determine compliance with dietary guidelines and to provide rigour for comparison between studies.
Convenience sampling was used to recruit 30 LDC services and food provision assessed over two consecutive days. To ensure consistency, trained researchers weighed raw food ingredients used in food preparation at each service. Food and food weights were allocated to food groups to determine average serves of food group provision at morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea per child. All data were entered into Foodworks for dietary analysis and compliance with dietary guidelines was assessed using Wilcoxon signed-rank and one-sample t-tests (SPSS).
This paper outlines the process of data collection for the measurement and auditing of food provision and food waste at a service level. There is an urgent need to ensure that food provision at a service level complies with current dietary guidelines and is accurately assessed. Following a standard method of data collection will allow a more accurate comparison between studies and allow change to be monitored more accurately over time to guide decision makers.
Ros Sambell, Ruth Wallace, Leesa Costello, Johnny Lo & Amanda Devine