...can I have some more? We look at school food
HERB CRUSTED salmon and special Thai and Greek food days. How times change!
School dinners of lumpy mash and custard (not necessarily together; there were some standards, even in the olden days) have long gone.
Now children get involved in everything from growing the food to planning menus.
At Langley Preparatory School at Taverham Hall, a school survey revealed the pupils’ favourite dish is herb-crusted salmon. The same school survey revealed the least favourite dish is … also herb-crusted salmon, which just goes to show that you can’t please all the people all the time, even with herb-crusted salmon. And before you wonder, there is a lot more than just herbcrusted salmon on the menu. At main meals the children, who are aged from two to 13, choose between food from a wrap and pasta bar, a salad bar, a main hot option, baked potatoes and freshly made soup.
At St Nicholas House pre-school and nursery, in North Walsham, favourites include the Wednesday roast, spaghetti bolognaise, chicken curry, cottage pie and their own St Nicholas tart (similar to Bakewell).
“The fish pie and quiche can take a little more persuasion to start with but once tried a
couple of times are soon enjoyed with gusto!” said St Nicholas school cook Louise Slater.
She loves seeing how enthusiastic the children are as they arrive for a meal. “They are always excited to see what they are eating. It is also lovely to see lots of clean plates and children asking for second helpings.”
Staff eat with the children, encouraging the social aspects of dining together and good table manners.
Grace is said before each meal and in summery weather the whole school eats outside at tables in the garden.
Louise said meals are definitely part of the school learning experience. “To give an example, one little boy started nursery and would not eat anything other than ham sandwiches,” said Louise. “Within a week of sitting with the other children and being encouraged by the teachers he was eating everything on his plate every day and asking his mum for nursery lunches at home. His mum couldn’t believe it!”
She suggested that parents keen to get their children ready for school and school dinners simply offer balanced meals. “Most parents try to make sure their children eat
“They are always excited to see what they are eating. It is also lovely to see lots of clean plates and children asking for second helpings.”
healthy food but in practice children are always going to choose the most unhealthy options on their plate!” she said. “We advise always making sure children are offered balanced meals and continuing to offer children those foods they say they don’t like as evidence shows that eventually they will eat these with encouragement.”
At Langley Preparatory School at Taverham Hall staff sit with every table of youngsters, and older pupils help clear the table at the end of each meal. Teachers play a big part in encouraging pupils to try new foods and a three-week menu rotation gives the children an opportunity to sample dishes again.
An elected catering committee of pupils give chef Joe Campen advice and feedback. Joe regularly visits the classrooms to talk about food and healthy eating and works to reduce sugar in puddings and fat in food preparation, with fryers replaced by a special fat-free baking oven and refined sugar replaced by a sugar made from tree bark.
The catering committee suggests additions to the menu, plus themes for special meals. Recent themes include Thai, Greek and Mexican, plus an American Independence Day barbecue. And on World Book Day food took on a literary flavour, with the children enjoying a magical Harry Potter menu.
Enjoying food at Langley Preparatory School at Taverham Hall
Louise Slater, head cook at St Nicholas House Prep School and Nursery
Nearly lunch time at St Nicholas House School
Eggs from the school chickens are on the menu at St Nicholas House School