Please Sir...

...can I have some more? We look at school food

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

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

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