What Are The Nutritional Problems Facing Caterers for Children in Cost-Sector Settings, and How can Software Help Overcome Them?

Schools, hospitals, council-run care homes for young people and even youth detention centres all have a duty of care to make sure the children and young people in their charge get the nutrition their growing bodies need. Here we’ll be exploring how Saffron software can help caterers do this, by looking at:

The current state of children’s nutrition

Children’s nutrition as a whole is of growing concern to the nation. Some of the nutritional challenges are universal throughout childhood and so are inherent in all of these settings: obesity, dislike of fruit and vegetables, the increase in food allergies, and high sugar intake. And, as one in four children now lives in poverty, getting consistent nutrition is also a problem for some.

The widespread approach to improving children’s nutrition in general has been to financially penalise unhealthy food, provide food education programmes to both children and their parents, and use high-profile chefs to champion healthy foods in media campaigns. The Soft Drinks Industry Levy is coming in April 2018. Public Health England has formulated a comprehensive sugar reduction programme with the aim of a 20% reduction in sugar in key foods by 2020. However, with the recent closure of the Children’s Food Trust, nutrition in each specific children’s setting may now become piecemeal.

Our Saffron software has numerous functions to counter the overarching challenges in children’s nutrition: from nutritional analysis modules to create low fat, low sugar, nutritionally balanced meals, to providing reliable allergen information for the increasing number of children with lethal allergies. Read more about these issues and see how our modular functionality resolves them here:

Nutritional challenges facing caterers in the cost sector

So what nutritional challenges are caterers facing in each area and what, specifically, can technology do to help them overcome them?

Nutrition in schools

Find out lots more about how school caterers are using Saffron in Meeting Nutritional Nutritional Challenges in Schools.

In schools,the problems have historically been connected to an unbalanced diet with a lack of proper nutrition. The School Food Plan changed all this by imposing nutritional guidelines, and many schools and education contractors began using Saffron software to import the guidelines, design their recipes and menus around them, automatically nutritionally analyse them from the supplier information stored against ingredients, and benchmark their food against the guidelines – all within the software. Adjustments can then be made so that food – from individual recipes to entire menu cycles – adheres to those guidelines.

The School Food Standards are mandatory, and schools have continued using our system to continue their healthy momentum. After all, why go backwards to manual analysis and unhealthy foods’ There’s lots of proof it’s working, with the DfE reporting that, due to the universal infants free school meals programme, more infants than ever are eating healthy lunches.

This is good news, but there are still numerous nutritional hurdles facing school catering:

Saffron’s technology can help: the allergen module works with the customer-facing allergen portal to provide reliable, real-time information on allergens. For breakfasts, Saffron’s recipe and menu management functions can handle sophisticated planning to include healthy breakfast clubs, and analyse each part of the menu as well as provide a big-picture report. Can technology help school dinners beat the outside competition’ Well, with reports that parents are failing at packing healthy packed lunches, the University of Hertfordshire is calling for schools to provide more appealing school meals – especially for teenagers, who are also tempted to spend their own money on non-school food. Saffron’s recipe and menu management modules can ease this, allowing menu designers to adapt and change recipes for maximum appeal. The bonus is that they’re automatically costed too, allowing caterers to produce appealing dishes – especially for older children who may pay for their school meals – at a price point that becomes more appealing to the money-hungry teen than the corner shop.

Nutrition for children in hospitals

What’s happening in hospital catering for children’ The fundamental issue is of course providing food as medicine – correctly tailored to an ill child’s condition, nutritionally balanced to aid recovery, allergen safe and, again, appealing in order to combat any danger of malnutrition. Saffron’s nutrition and allergens module takes care of the patient’s nutrition, while also enabling the caterers to provide allergen-safe food. Additionally, Saffron’s Patient Ordering software has multiple benefits, from allowing caterers to record children’s individual requirements (such as thickener, and so on), to allowing the child a chance to order the food they’d most prefer – so guarding against malnutrition and reducing wastage.

Nutrition in children’s care homes and detention centres

The picture in children’s care homes and youth detention centres is less clear. There is a dearth of research on children’s nutrition in these areas, but what we know is that there are some nutritional issues common to both. Reassuringly, the gap has been recognised, and the NACC is working with the Fostering Network to produce new guidelines on feeding looked-after children. There is a clear link with children in both settings and deprivation. Children being taken into care, often due to neglect or abuse, and the familial cycles of crime that result in youth detention, are intrinsically linked to the socio-economics of deprivation. And, unfortunately, as identified in the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) Local Authority Profile from February 2017 there is a link between deprivation and obesity – caterers must take account of this. Children often come to these settings with a damaged emotional relationship to food, as well as physically inconsistent nutrition. So as well as the childhood obesity issue linked to deprivation, there may also be problems with malnutrition in these settings.

Software can be used here to design appropriate nutrition that is allergen-safe for children, and that can be used for menu cycles of varying stays, from the short to the long term care of children. In fact, there is no reason why the recently launched Saffron Care Catering can’t be used for children’s homes and detention settings. Why not explore our Introduction to Saffron Care Catering to see how it’s already working in residential homes for older people’ When used in tandem with the main Saffron modules like nutritional analysis, menu and recipe management and allergen management, it can combine the management of well-being factors so associated with food as a social activity in long-term care.

It’s our generation’s responsibility to ensure our children grow up with a healthy relationship to food – why wouldn’t we want to use all the tools and technology at our disposal to effect these in education and welfare state settings?

What next?

Whatever sector you’re in, catering to children can be complex in regulatory compliance, logistics, and financials. To see how our Saffron products can help, call us on 0114 281 6060, email us at info@fdhospitality.com, or fill out our contact form.

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