Since the horrors of Turkey Twizzlers unearthed by Jamie Oliver in 2005 there has been significant improvements in school meals with improvements in quality and reductions in junk foods.
However, there is still lots of work to be done both in terms of uptake and quality. The School Food Plan (2013) found that the nationwide uptake is only 43%. This is especially worrying as only one per cent of packed lunches meet the national school foods standards. Almost 20% of children are obese by the time they leave primary school so promoting healthy school food and ethos is crucial reducing a national health crisis.
Creating a whole school food program means integrating food education and school meals and making healthy lifestyles part of your school ethos. School food should allow children to understand where their food comes from, basic nutrition, how to cook and give them the knowledge to make life-long healthy choices.
Your school’s leadership team, teachers and catering staff need to create a plan that links school meals and food education in order to successfully implement healthier eating practices. It is important that your catering service and staff feel part of the school community as they often play a key role in healthy eating habits. Bring your catering staff to parent’s evenings to allow them to answer questions from parents about their child’s eating habits and create a link between home and school food. If your catering service is not fulfilling your vision for school food you may want to consider finding a new contract provider.
Some tips to improve your school food ethos:
- Make the food look, taste and smell appealing. Include a wide range of colours and textures.
- Allow children to sit with their friends in the dining area and make this area inviting.
- Reward children who try new foods, learn how to use a knife and fork, help clear up etc
- Get the price right, consider initial subsidies or discounts for parents with multiple children at the school.
- Grow food in your school and use them in lunches.
- Include the community.
- Include food and cooking across the curriculum.
- Allow children to directly involved in the catering service.