Views on providing free milk and healthy snacks to all children receiving funded ELC entitlement
Questions 8 and 9 of the consultation sought views on the proposal to include an offer of free milk and a healthy snack alongside the free meal that will be provided for all children in ELC funded provision by 2020. Children will be receiving funded ELC provision in a variety of settings including local authority settings, partner setings in the private or third/voluntary sector, or with childminders. It was found that there was a consensus amongst respondents in favour of these proposals. This chapter includes:
- Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to provide milk to all children receiving funded ELC entitlement.
- Other comments regarding the provision of milk to all children receiving funded ELC entitlement.
- Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to provide healthy snacks to all children receiving funded ELC entitlement.
- Other comments regarding the provision of a healthy snack to all children receiving funded ELC entitlement.
Each of these points will be discussed in turn.
6.1 Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to provide milk to all children receiving funded ELC entitlement
There was a consensus in favour of the proposal to provide free milk to children receiving ELC funding entitlement. As Figure 4 shows, of the 115 respondents who answered question 8, 103 (90%) agreed with the proposal, one disagreed, and 11 (10%) did not provide a clear view either way. Respondents highlighted the nutritional benefits of milk, as well as the benefits of providing this universally to all children.
Figure 4 – The percentage of respondents to question 8 that agreed or disagreed with the proposal to provide milk to all children receiving funded ELC entitlement
Nine out of ten respondents to question 8 agreed with the proposal to provide milk
6.2 Other comments on the provision of milk to all children receiving ELC funded entitlement
Many respondents who answered this question believed that dairy-free alternatives should be available for children who do not consume cow's milk due to allergies or cultural reasons.
Some respondents, particularly local authorities and milk providers, would like to see further clarification on how the provision and funding of the free milk offer would operate. Regarding this, the issues raised included:
- The need to consult with local authorities and dairy farmers when designing this offer
- How additional funding is allocated and whether a 'funding follows the child approach' is adopted
- Making the system as simple as possible for providers to navigate.
A few respondents pointed out that it might be advisable not to offer milk alongside a meal, as it might reduce children's appetite. For example, First Steps Nutrition Trust argued that 'offering milk with a main meal might be counter-productive in terms of children having sufficient appetite to eat the nutritious foods on offer'. Another organisation suggested offering milk as a mid-morning snack, arguing that 'the earlier in the day milk is offered to children, the better they will learn and perform academically.'
Additional comments made regarding the provision of milk included:
- Ensuring that childcare providers are not reimbursed for offering infant formula
- That guidance should be sought on whether the milk should be full-fat
- Consideration of children who might still be breastfed.
6.3 Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to provide healthy snacks to all children receiving ELC funded entitlement
As for the provision of milk, there was a consensus in favour of providing a healthy snack to all children receiving ELC funded entitlement. As Figure 5 shows, of the 121 respondents who answered question 9, 116 (96%) agreed with the proposal and 5 (4%) did not provide a clear view. No-one explicitly disagreed.
Figure 5 – The percentage of respondents to question 9 that agreed or disagreed with the proposal to provide healthy snacks to all children receiving ELC funded entitlement
There was a consensus among respondents to question 9 that healthy snacks should be provided
Aside from the short-term nutritional benefits of providing a healthy snack to children, many respondents highlighted the longer-term benefits in terms of educating children about healthy eating and creating positive habits.
6.4 Other comments on the provision of a healthy snack to all children receiving ELC funded entitlement
The most frequent comments concerned the type and quality of the snacks offered. Some respondents commented on what should constitute a 'healthy snack', with many of these being of the opinion that it should be restricted to a portion of fruit or vegetables. The need to follow Setting the Table guidance when determining healthy snacks was also mentioned by some.
As with the free milk offer, some respondents had questions regarding how the healthy snacks would be funded and provided. A few respondents stated that they should be locally and sustainably sourced.
A few respondents identified the provision of a healthy snack to children receiving funded ELC entitlement as an opportunity to offer holistic education for both children and parents/carers, by involving children in the preparation of a snack and parents/carers in the wider scheme.
Comments on free milk and healthy snacks:
‘I am definitely in favour of this, as when a child is introduced to food/ drink at an early age, they are more inclined to develop a taste for these items and continue to want more of it.’ (Medical or healthcare professional)
‘This proposal will only be successful if it is fully funded, council’s views on the operational challenges are listened to and responded to and there is sufficient flexibility to shape local provision depending on the context of the council.’ (Local Authority)
‘Over a few years the habit of giving kids a bag of crisps or a biscuit every day might just die out if snack is provided at school.’ (Uncategorised individual)
‘We are concerned the definition of “healthy snack” will be relaxed to allow baked crisps, cereal bars etc which may meet “healthy” criteria but can lead to habit formation ( e.g. eating biscuits and crisps of any sort) beyond early years. In summary offering a fruit/vegetable snack is welcomed, offering other snack foods is not.’ (Third sector/ community organisation)