Good nutrition in early childhood sets a child up for a lifetime of healthy habits. Food tastes and preferences develop and are set at an early age. A well-nourished child will learn and concentrate better, there is a clear relationship between nutrition, learning and long term academic achievement. Good nutrition also helps a child to develop a strong immune system, protecting them from illness.

Minimising the risk of children choking while eating

The Ministry of Education has updated their licensing criteria and guidance to reduce food-related choking for babies and young children at early learning services.

For detailed information on the requirements in centres and for lunch boxes click here.

Food Act 2014

From 1 March 2016 all new early childcare centres and kōhanga reo must comply with the new food safety law
when they open. Existing centres must apply to register under the new Act by 31 March 2017.

The new law applies differently to different early childcare services. Centre-based services and kōhanga reo that charge fees and cook food must register under a ‘national programme 2’, whilst home-based services, or those services that only serve fruit or pre-packaged snacks, just need to make sure their food is safe and suitable.

Early childcare services can start by using the Where do I fit? tool on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website to see how the new law applies to them.

What training and qualifications do cooks need?

Under the Food Act, cooks operating under a national programme 2 (NP2) don’t need a formal qualification in order to prepare food. However, the cook needs to be familiar with food safety and suitability procedures such as how to:

  1. keep kitchen and eating areas clean and sanitised
  2. manage rubbish and control pests
  3. check cooking and storage temperatures of certain types of food (particularly poultry)

If someone doesn’t normally cook food but has a celebration (hangi) do they need to register?

Food prepared and served on marae for customary activities such as tangi is outside the scope of the Act, and will not be regulated because the food isn’t sold or traded. If you sell food to raise funds for charitable, benevolent, or cultural purposes you do not need to register as long as the trading takes place no more than 20 times a year.

The Marae Food Safety Guide contains information on food safety and an explanation of tikanga in this
context. You may also find the Be Food Safe guidance from MPI useful.

Agencies that support good nutrition in early childhood centres

  • Heart Foundation provides early childhood centres with resources, programmes and workshops that support the development and teaching of good nutrition. 
  • Allergy NZ is a national charity organisation which provides information, education and support on how to manage a child’s food allergy.
  • Fuelled4life involves the education, health and food industry sectors working together to make it easier to have healthier food in schools and early childhood centres.
Last updated 4 March 2021.