Food for Life has surveyed parents of pre-school age children with the aim of finding out more about how they felt about food provision in early years settings. In particular, we were keen to understand more about their views on the importance of food quality and food-based education and how it ranked as a choice factor when they selected an early years setting for their child. We also wished to explore how confident parents felt about the food served to their children and whether independent verification of both food provision and wider food education would be of value.
Food for Life commissioned independent market research company ResearchBods to run the survey through their consumer panel. The online survey was unprompted and ran between 20th – 28th April 2016.
A total of 500 respondents (361 Female / 139 Male) completed the survey. Respondents were from regions throughout England and Wales and from a cross-section of demographics.
All respondents were asked initial qualifying questions to establish that they were parents / carers of a child / children age 0-5 who either:
- Currently attend an early years setting (70%)
- Has / have attended an early years care setting in the last year (24%)
- Are likely to attend an early years setting in the next year (21%)
- Quality of food provision: More than half (57%) of respondents said that the quality of food provision was very important in their choice of early years setting. Only 7% said it was of no importance.
- Encouragement of healthy behaviours ranked above Ofsted rating in terms of factors that were important in the choice of early years setting for their children and was second only to ‘children seeming happy there’.
- Provision of healthy food ranked equal to Ofsted rating in terms of factors that were important in the choice of early years setting for their children.
- Confidence in the quality of food provision: Half of respondents said that they were very confident in the food provided by their child’s early years setting. However, 47% were only ‘quite confident’, some of the reasons cited for the lack for total confidence were parents not witnessing meals, menus varying from those published and snacks not being as healthy as main meals.
- Independent accreditation: 83% of respondents said they would value an independent accreditation of the food quality and provision of food education.
- More than half (55%) of respondents said an independent endorsement of food quality & food education would be likely or very likely to influence them to select one provider over another if all other factors were equal. Only 2% said it would have no influence at all.
- Responses were notably consistent across respondents (i.e. regionally and demographically).