TastEd at the Department for Education Early Years Foundation Stage EventFran
Engaging the Senses With Practitioners.
When the National Food Strategy was published we were delighted to see Henry Dimblely and his team recommend that sensory food education should be added to the Early Years curriculum. Since then we have been working with the Department for Education (DfE) Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) team supporting their development of health and wellbeing policy. This began with our guide for EYFS practitioners and recently led to TastEd being invited to a DfE Foundation Years Event to engage, connect, and share best practice across the sector.
TastEd Co-founder Dr Jason O’Rourke highlighted the urgent need for sensory food education, citing how the “UK has both the highest rates of ultra-processed-food consumption in children and the highest rates of obesity in Europe” (Tim Spector, 2023). But despite the worrying headlines of rising diabetes and obesity rates, he explained how TastEd can engage children’s innate curiosity, and help them learn to uncover the pleasure and joy of eating fresh fruit and vegetables.
As the image above shows, a whole government approach is possible. Jason talked about how Finland worked to get engagement across many sites of government, education and society over 10 years, to achieve sensory food education (Sapere) is now part of the Early Years curriculum.
Jason went on to give a taste of the principles and methods of TastEd’s approach, including dedicated EYFS resources and a snippet of the EYFS training videos coming this summer. The group headed to lunch with a more sensory mindset, and a chance to attend a workshop to put TastEd into practice in EY settings in the afternoon.
In the afternoon session, trustee and food education advocate Kim Smith got nursery practitioners, chefs and local authority managers to explore different fruits and vegetables using each of the 5 senses. They were just as excited and surprised as the children about the joy of such simple activities, with one participant shocked to discover he no longer hated celery. Discussion around implementation of TastEd in settings raised issues of weaning, choking hazards and parental engagement, that DfE Health and Wellbeing Policy Lead Laura provided expert guidance and reassurance for. Taking the approach whole heartedly onboard, participants commented how easily they could bring TastEd into their EYFS settings, whilst TastEd also took away lots of stimulus about how to help nurseries and childminders address many of the food issues they are facing across the sector.
Huge thanks to DfE EYFS team, Hempsalls and Coram for inviting, and hosting TastEd during such a hugely engaging conference. The session was also run online, and is available thanks to Hempsalls here.