The first 1000 days of children’s lives – from conception to a child’s second birthday – offer a unique window of opportunity as the foundations for healthy growth and development later in life are established.

Together with the Free University Amsterdam we started Food4Smiles, a unique Participatory Action Research project that focuses on a healthy start for every child. Food4smiles combines research, practice, and policy and is a collaboration between Amsterdam Nieuw-West, VU University Amsterdam (Department of Health Sciences), Fred Foundation, the Municipality of Amsterdam (the Amsterdam Healthy Weight Program/Kansrijke Start) and  the Sarphati Institute Amsterdam.

We contribute to a healthy start for every child by collecting as many insights as possible from parents with young children from Amsterdam Nieuw-West and their immediate social environment. These insights cover what issues parents run into and what solutions might help them to offer their children a healthy lifestyle in the first 1000 days of their lives. 

Since many factors influence a healthy start, a systemic approach is needed. Mapping these factors gives us a better understanding of how they influence each other. We combine research, policy, and practice. Furthermore, we deploy various art projects to make the importance of a healthy start visible to everyone in the district.

Food4Smiles takes place in the multi-ethnic Amsterdam Nieuw-West with many inhabitants with lower socioeconomic status. Children in Amsterdam Nieuw-West tend to be relatively more overweight than in other parts of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. In Amsterdam Nieuw-West an average of 2000 babies are born each year.

The home base of Food4Smiles is the Stadsboerderij in Osdorp. This is a sustainable experiment in the middle of the city where nature, healthy food and a kind neighborhood come together.

Food4Smiles is a regional project with wide potential. We obtain as many relevant insights as possible from our target group in Amsterdam Nieuw-West and scientifically safeguard the entire process.

Why Food4Smiles is unique and distinctive:

  • We connect research, policy, practice and initiatives from stakeholders and parents in Amsterdam, Nieuw-West. There is an explicit demand for the participation of parents.
  • We have a holistic view on health, which includes diet, physical activity sleep and relaxation.
  • We use Participatory Action Research (PAR) in which there is an explicit collaboration between researchers and stakeholders during the research process.
  • We work from existing and positive energy in the neighborhoods, and we try to optimize and expand activities already in place.
  • We use System Science, this method refers to the idea that the broader system must be understood to address the problems around the first 1000 days. We will focuses on relationships, relationships, feedback loops and interactions between all components within the system.
  • Art is used to bring the importance of a healthy start and the results of Food4Smiles to the attention in Amsterdam Nieuw-West.

Keen to learn more?

Visit website Food4Smiles.

Please contact Femke Boelsma of the Free University Amsterdam or Anna Groenewegen/Ruth Weijermars of Fred Foundation.

Fred Matser (founder)

Fred Foundation was founded by Fred Matser in 1996 to contribute to the development of a more functional society. From a vision of interconnectedness of life and circular thinking.

Read more about Fred