Providing food at your club

Registering as a food business

You may not be aware, but if you serve any food at all at your out of school club, your club is classed as a "food business" and as such needs to be registered with your local authority.

According to the Food Standards Agency:

"Registration applies to most types of food business, including catering businesses run from home and mobile or temporary premises, such as stalls and vans. If you use two or more premises, you will need to register all of them."

Registration is free and fairly straightforward. Many local authorities have the registration form available to download from their websites, and some will allow you to apply online. You will also have to consider these things:

  • Do the design and construction of your premises meet legal requirements?
  • Have you put food safety management procedures in place and are you keeping up-to-date records of these?
  • Do you and your staff understand the principles of good food hygiene?
  • Have you considered health and safety and fire safety arrangements?
  • Do you describe food and drink accurately?

Once you have registered as a food business, you may at some point be inspected by one of your local council's environmental health officers.
Find out more about environmental health inspections

Food handling training

Surprisingly there is no legal requirement for operators of food businesses to hold a formal food hygiene qualification just that they have had some training. However Ofsted will expect that at least one member of staff at an Ofsted registered setting has a Food Handling and Hygiene Level 2 qualification.

Most clubs have a couple of staff who have the formal food handling and hygiene qualification, who then inform other staff members of best practice. Many local authorities will provide food hygiene courses for childcare settings, often funding them for one or two members of staff each year. If this is the case in your area, it is a good idea to implement a training plan so that over, say, a three year cycle all staff receive formal training.

Food regulations for Early Years settings

Out of school clubs also have other statutory regulations that they must adhere to when providing food and drink for the children in their care if they are registered with Ofsted. The welfare requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage state that:

"Before a child is admitted to the setting the provider must also obtain information about any special dietary requirements, preferences and food allergies that the child has, and any special health requirements... Providers must record and act on information from parents and carers about a child's dietary needs."
[para 3.55 Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, 2024]

In addition you must adhere to the specific statutory requirements relating to food and drink:

"Where children are provided with meals, snacks and drinks, these must be healthy, balanced and nutritious... Fresh drinking water must be available and accessible at all times."
[para 3.55 Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, 2024]

"Providers must be confident that those responsible for the preparation and handling of food are competent to do so. In group provision, all staff involved in preparing and handling food must receive training in food hygiene."
[para 3.56 Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, 2024]

"Registered providers must notify Ofsted... of any food poisoning affecting two or more children cared for on the premises. ... A registered provider who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with this requirement, commits an offence."
[para 3.57 Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, 2024]

Food allergen information

From December 2014 new food regulations came into force which mean that all food providers - including out of school clubs if they serve food - have a legal duty to provide information to consumers if any of 14 specified allergenic ingredients are contained in their food. For more information about how these new regulations affect out of school clubs, see our Food allergen information article.

School Food Standards

The School Food Standards came into effect on 1 January 2015. These apply to the food served at your out of school club if:

  • Your club is run directly by the school or the local authority, whether on school premises or not; or
  • Your club is a separate organisation but runs on school premises.

The School Food Standards don't apply to any food which is:

  • Served at your club after 6.00pm
  • Served at your club on non-school days (eg during school holidays)
  • Served at your club if you signed a Transfer of Control Agreement (TOCA)* as part of your rental contract with the school
  • Provided at your club to celebrate a particular cultural event (eg a Christmas party), or as a fundraiser (eg a cake sale)
  • Prepared at your club as part of a cookery activity even if the children eat the food afterwards
  • Brought into the club by children or their parents
  • Served at your club if it does not operate on school premises and is not run by a school or local authority

* The TOCA is a complex legal agreement which temporarily transfers all responsibility from the school governors to the hirer for the duration of the hire period. Only a minority of out of school clubs have a TOCA with the school, so this exemption from the School Food Standards will not apply to most clubs.

If the School Food Standards do apply to your club you will find that you are now restricted on what you can serve the children. For example, no crackers or breadsticks, no cakes or biscuits of any kind, no desserts except for yoghurt and fruit. For our suggestions on how you can meet the School Food Standards at your club see:
Meeting the School Food Standards

More details about the School Food Standards can be found on .GOV.UK:
School Food Standards: Checklist for food other than lunch
School Food Standards: full suite of guidance documents

Healthy food in practice

In practice you have to provide a range of healthy food each day. To help you to achieve this you can involve the children and create a menu of healthy favourites. If you have very fussy eaters, provide fruit juice as well as water, as a glass of juice will counts as one of their 'five a day'. It is also useful to remember that children are far more likely to try something if they have made it themselves—this also encourages independence, so everyone wins.

Healthy snack ideas:

  • Toast/bagels/tortillas/pitta bread (it is amazing how simple and satisfying the process of spreading toast is for children of any age!)
  • Sandwich fillings, eg cheese, ham, houmous
  • Carrot sticks/ cucumber/ celery with a selection of dips
  • Plenty of fresh fruit: grapes, sliced apples, segmented oranges, sliced melon etc

If the majority of the food provided is good quality, healthy and nutritious, you can then add a little indulgence with cooking activities in the form of making cookies and cakes, which then become a treat, rather than the norm.

Related articles

Meeting the School Food Standards
Food allergen information

Allergy boards