Licensing criteria for home-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines home-based ECE services as the provision of education or care, for gain or reward, to children who are under the age of 5 years, or who are aged 5 years but not enrolled at school, in:

  • the children’s own home; or
  • the home of the person providing the education or care; or
  • any other home nominated by a parent of the children.

These services are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the services meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help services meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.3 MB] and printed.

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022.

HS16 Food and nutrition

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and Safety practices criterion 16

      Food is served at appropriate times to meet the nutritional needs of each child while they are attending. Where food is provided by the service, it is of sufficient variety, quantity and quality to meet the nutritional and developmental needs of each child. Where food is provided by parents, the service encourages and promotes healthy eating guidelines.

      Documentation required:

      A record of all food served during the service's hours of operation (other than that provided by parents for their own children). Records show the type of food provided and are available for inspection for 3 months after the food is served.


      The criterion aims to uphold the health, safety and wellbeing of children by ensuring the service meets their nutritional needs or alternatively encourages parents to do so. Requirement to keep records for 12 months has been reduced to 3, as this is considered to be a more useful minimum period of time. Record-keeping requirements serve two purposes;

      a) to demonstrate compliance with the criterion; and
      b) to provide useful information in the event of any allergic reactions that may develop in children attending.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Food is served at appropriate times to meet the nutritional needs of children while they are attending

      Services may have set mealtimes or have “rolling kai”, i.e. that children are able to eat when they are hungry. It is important to ensure whichever practice is followed:

      Where food is provided by the service, it is of sufficient variety, quantity and quality to meet the nutritional and developmental needs of each child

      It is important to engage with whānau when determining the food to serve to tamariki that is of sufficient variety, quantity and quality to meet the nutritional and developmental needs of each child.

      The Ministry of Health provide guidance which classifies foods based on their nutritional value with colour codes in the Healthy Food and Drink Guidance(external link). The Ministry of Health have determined that healthy options (Green) should make up at least 75 percent of foods and drinks served at early learning services. For children under two years of age, all food and drink provided should be green.

      The Ministry of Education would consider services to be in breach of this criteria if for example:

      • services prepared foods for 4-6-year old’s in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidance for 1-3-year old’s for the sake of efficiency; or
      • services disregard the individual needs of tamariki who were not developing in accordance with expected range of development in small children; or
      • healthy options make up less than 75 percent of foods and drinks served.

      Where food is provided by parents the service promotes and encourages healthy eating guidelines

      Services may choose to develop a Healthy Food and Drink Policy with whānau.

      Services may provide the Healthy food and Drink Guidance(external link) to whānau at the time of enrolment. The Guidance may be provided in hard copy, electronically, or via an electronic link for whānau with internet access.

      Services may display posters which encourage healthy foods and demonstrate how to prepare foods to meet the developmental needs of tamariki.


      Where a service provides food, a record of the daily menu outlining the ingredients will meet this requirement. Menus are required to be specific in case of an unexpected allergic reaction. For example, what type of fruit or the contents of a sandwich must be recorded to satisfy this requirement.

      If food is provided by parents for a shared lunch a list of all food provided is required to meet this requirement

      Keep the records of food served for 3 months.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      The NZ Heart Foundation(external link) has information on their free Healthy Heart Award programme which provides structure and guidance around all aspects of food and nutrition. This includes multilingual lunchbox resources, policies, sample menus and resources to engage whānau and professional development for staff.