Early childhood education and care services are a significant feature of Australian family life, where nearly 1.4 million children attended a service in 2019. This paper reports on the cost of food provided to children in long day-care (LDC) services and extrapolates expenditure recommendations to support food provision compliance. A cross-sectional audit of LDC services in metropolitan Perth was conducted to determine food group provision by weighing raw ingredients of meal preparation—morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea (MT, L, AT). Ingredients were costed at 2017 online metropolitan pricing from a large supermarket chain. Across participating services, 2 days of food expenditure per child/day ranged between $1.17 and $4.03 across MT, L, AT, and averaged $2.00 per child/day. Multivariable analysis suggests that an increase of $0.50 per child/day increases the odds of a LDC service meeting >50% of Australian Dietary Guideline (ADG) recommendations across ≥4 core food groups by fourfold (p = 0.03). Given the fact that the literature regarding food expenditure at LDC services is limited, this study provides information about food expenditure variation that impacts planning and provision of nutritionally balanced menus recommended for children. An average increase of food expenditure of $0.50 per child/day would increase food provision compliance.

Ros Sambell ,Ruth Wallace, Johnny Lo, Leesa Costello and Amanda Devine


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