Preliminary results from 'Kai Time in ECE' published

13 October 2014
Kai Time in ECE

Kai time in ECE is a one-off online survey of managers of licensed ECE services in the Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waikato District Health Board (DHB) regions, collecting information about food, nutrition and physical activity practices and policies for 3-4 year olds.

257 licensed Early Childhood Education (ECE) services, around 30% of all licensed services in the specified are, responded to the survey.

Preliminary results from the survey are now available, and include information about the types of foods consumed by children at ECE services, nutrition education activities, barriers and enablers of healthy behaviours, and physical activity strategies employed by ECE providers.

Food provided by ECE services


  • 56% provide some food to children daily.
  • 64% of private education and care centres (ECC) and 37% of community ECC provide lunch daily.
  • Two-thirds of private ECC (65%) and community ECC (62%) employ a cook to prepare the food. Teachers prepare the food in most kindergartens (82%), and playcentres only use parents to prepare food when it is provided by them.

Nutrition education


  • 60% teach food and nutrition concepts at least weekly, e.g. how vegetables are grown or foods eaten by different cultures, or how fruit and vegetables keep bodies healthy.
  • 59% involve children in making, baking or cooking food at least weekly. Cupcakes, cake or biscuits (79%) and muffins (73%) were the most common foods baked with children in the past 12 months.
  • 90% grow their own fruit trees and/or vegetables onsite. Children were involved in gardening activities: daily (18%), weekly (43%), monthly (25%) or a few times a year/rarely (16%)

Special occasions


  • Birthdays were the most common special occasion (47%). Also common, were national or cultural celebrations, such as Easter, Diwali, Mothers’ Day (22%) and last days or farewells (13%).
  • 41% have a special occasion ‘monthly (but not every week)’, 46% ‘a few times a year’ (but not every month), 7% ‘weekly’ (but not every day).
  • The most common food served on special occasions was cupcakes or a cake (83%). Other foods served were: biscuits (26%), pizza, pies, sausages or sausage rolls (25%), sandwiches, filled rolls or sushi (25%), confectionery (14%), potato chips (18%), sweet/fried bread or pancakes (5%), 100% fruit juice (5%) and sugar-sweetened beverages (3%). 49% usually serve fruit or vegetables on special occasions.

Physical activity and sedentary behaviour


  • ECE services generally employ a wide range of physical activity strategies, space and equipment to encourage active play.
  • 87% have enough indoor play space for some active play (e.g. jumping and dancing) and 11% reported enough indoor space for all activities including running.
  • Most children spend the majority of their time at ECE services in active play (either child or teacher led play). In 87% of services, teachers lead children in some active play during the day.
  • One in nine services reported that children on average watch television, educational programmes or movies daily (2%) or weekly (9%) while in ECE. One in three services reported that children use computers (games and apps) on average daily (11%) or weekly (22%) while in ECE.

Food from home


  • 47% require children to bring food from home daily for meals and/ or snacks.
  • 95% require food to be brought from home for some, most or all special occasions.
  • 66% have written nutrition guidelines for food brought from home, (68% of services where children bring food daily for all of their snacks and meals).
  • 73% of services with written nutrition guidelines said ‘most’ of their families complied with the policy, and 18% said ‘all’ their families complied.

Kai time: Staff behaviours


  • 80% ‘always’ sit with children while they eat.
  • 87% ‘most of the time’ or ‘always’ talk to children about what they are eating.
  • 85% ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ hurry children to finish eating.
  • 84% ‘always’ encourage and promote water consumption.
  • 27% ‘most of the time’ or ‘always’ eat and drink the same things as children.

Fundraising with food


  • 37% had sold food as part of their fundraising activities in the past 12 months.
  • Pizza, pies, sausages or sausage rolls were the most common foods for fundraising (54%), followed by cupcakes, cake, croissants or biscuits (49%).
  • 24% of those services who sell food to fundraise (9% of all ECE services) had sold lollies, sweets, chocolate or other confectionery in the past 12 months.
  • Cultural foods, such as hangi, chop suey, samosas, sushi and Indian curries, were also relatively common (21%).

Barriers and enablers to support healthy behaviours


  • 40% experience a barrier to providing and/or promoting healthy food to children. The most common barrier was a lack of support from parents and families (52%), followed by concerns about food intolerances or allergies (26%).
  • 29% experience a barrier to promoting physical activity to children. The most common barriers were ‘limited opportunity/space’ (34%), ‘limited storage’ (34%) and ‘insufficient funds’ (30%).
  • 50% had a ‘nutrition champion’ and 50% had a ‘physical activity champion’ (someone who shares knowledge and skills, raises awareness and promotes positive change regarding food and nutrition/physical activity for children).
  • 38% did not have either a ‘nutrition champion’ or a ‘physical activity champion’, and 39% had both a ‘nutrition champion’ and a ‘physical activity champion’.

   

What else will come from this research?


Look out for further research using the Kai Time in ECE data, on:

  • Quality of food provided by ECE services (menu analysis) and average spend on food per child per day;
  • The content of written nutrition and physical activity policies;
  • Participation in health promotion programmes, such as 5+ A Day and the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Awards;
  • Differences in results by ECE service type, neighbourhood deprivation, and other variables of interest;
  • A summary score for nutrition and physical activity environment indicators that may be linked to child growth;
  • Health outcomes for children in ECE environments, accounting for the home environment by linking to the Growing Up in New Zealand study which has followed nearly 7,000 children from before birth until now when they are 5 years old.