The Early Years Award criteria

The Food for Life Early Years award is centred around four areas of development, which link to the criteria and create an action framework for your setting:

  • Food quality and where food comes from
  • Food leadership and food culture
  • Food education
  • Community, partnerships and parent engagement

Here’s a summary of what your setting will achieve in order to reach the award. You can read the full criteria here.

Food quality and where food comes from:

Food for Life Early Years Award holders:

  • Have menus that demonstrate their compliance with the national standards or guidelines on food and nutrition.
  • Make sure that at least 75% of dishes on their menu are freshly prepared from unprocessed ingredients.
  • Only serve meat that is farm assured to show it is from farms which satisfy UK welfare standards.
  • Do not buy fish on the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) 'Fish to Avoid' list.
Food leadership and food culture:

Food for Life Early Years Award holders:

  • Have a food policy which shows how they are meeting the Food for Life Early Years Award criteria. This describes how they are working with children, parents, carers, staff and cooks to provide good menus that meet Food for Life Catering Mark standards and how they grow, cook and enjoy fresh, healthy food.
  • Signpost eligible families to the Healthy Start scheme, where this may be appropriate.
  • Encourage all parents and carers to give their children vitamin drops in line with current policy.
  • Signpost families to oral health improvement programmes and oral health advice.

Food education:

Food for Life Early Years Award holders:

  • Use the topics of healthy and sustainable food as the theme for activities to support all areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) educational framework.
  • Grow food with the children using safe organic methods and give them an opportunity to eat fruit, vegetables and herbs they have grown.
  • Provide cooking sessions for children that promote healthy recipes with fruit and vegetables, including those they have grown.
  • Have links with farms and/or local food businesses.

Community, partnerships and parent engagement:

Food for Life Early Years Award holders:

  • Celebrate diversity and include food-related activities to celebrate multicultural festivals and events in different cultures. This is done throughout the year for the children, parents and the wider community.
  • Make efforts to actively engage parents, carers and the wider community in their growing, cooking and farm link activities.
  • Take every opportunity to encourage children and families to taste and talk about a variety of foods, including seasonal fruit and vegetables.
  • Keep parents informed of Food for Life activities and invite them to attend meal and/or snack times.


Enrol today

Independent accreditation of your food quality & food education

A Food for Life Early Years Award is a great way to demonstrate to parents that your nursery or children’s centre is giving every child in your care the best possible start to their food journey.

Click on the picture below to find out more.

Early Years Packages Flyer

Early Years Award Criteria

Download an overview of the Early Years Award criteria here

Early Years Criteria and Guidance overview

Top Tip

If your setting is working towards or has achieved the Food for Life Early Years award, be sure to make the criteria easily available to parents, so they can see all the fantastic work you are doing. Why not link to the criteria on your website or in a newsletter?