Nutrition and Hydration Week

11th-17th March 2019 is Nutrition and Hydration Week, which aims to highlight and educate people on the value of food and drink in maintaining health and wellbeing.

CACHE understands the importance of health and wellbeing for people of all ages, and the best way to form healthy habits is to start from a young age. This is why the Physical Activity and Nutrition Co-ordinator (PANCo) role in Early Years settings has been developed.

To help upskill practitioners interested in this role, CACHE developed a PANCo unit which is will be part of the Level 4 Certificate for the Early Years Advanced Practitioner, essential for anyone looking to become a PANCo. This was developed in partnership with the Cambridge Model Initiative, who won the Health and Wellbeing Award at the Nursery World Awards 2018.

The role has been developed at a time which fits in with the government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity. Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “Obesity is one of the greatest epidemics facing our children today. Bold action is required to tackle this public health crisis”. Childhood obesity has been described as “everyone’s business” and children at risk need to be identified early, to make sure that they and their families can access the right support – which puts early years practitioners in a prime position to help prevent childhood obesity.

This video from Public Health England demonstrates for all health and care professionals their vital role in supporting children, young people and families in maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent and reduce childhood obesity, from pregnancy through to the transition to adulthood. It is part of the All Our Health ‘call to action’ for health and care professionals to embed and extend prevention, health protection and promotion of wellbeing and resilience into their practice.

The PANCo qualification and role of is a beacon for quality provision in early years and has been designed as a wellbeing-in-action intervention that promotes positive nutrition and physical activity to support the prevention of obesity within early years settings. This holistic approach supports the wellbeing of children, families and early years staff teams through positive sustainable change by providing a framework of best practice.

The PANCo qualification gives Early Years educators a robust knowledge base about healthy eating and physical activity for children.

The role of a PANCo involves applying knowledge and skills to lead and support change within the setting, liaising with external Health and Education professionals and providing advice and information for parents and carers. PANCos will also be expected to demonstrate leadership and mentoring skills, work collaboratively with others to lead change and ensure best practice and national recommended guidelines are met.

Linda Baston-Pitt, co-founder of the PANCo network said: ‘The development of the PANCo role signals the growing understanding that the early years are a critical time for children to establish healthy behaviours in physical activity and nutrition.

A happy consequence of a PANCo course is that everybody’s health and wellbeing can be improved, including staff, families and carers. The role of the PANCo is one that has emerged from within the Early Years sector – rather than being one that has been imposed upon it. It’s grown from our own experience of what works in Early Years, together with solid evidence-based understanding of health behaviour change.

We know from our pilot work that the approach can be applied successfully in all Early Years settings including nurseries, pre – schools, after school clubs and reception classes.”

Janet Williams is currently working as a PANCo and has commented: “Becoming a PANCo has really given me the knowledge and confidence I needed to be able to support and motivate my team. We have already started to implement new ideas around nutrition and physical activity into practice. We have made holistic menus that include breakfast and snacks so that the menu is balanced across the whole day and we share those with parents. And that has changed the way the children eat and what they say to their parents”


To find out more about the Level 4 Certificate for the Early Years Advanced Practitioner please visit our qualhub website.