Din­ners for win­ners

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life / Food -

IN THE post-Jamie’s School Din­ners era, Wolfson Hil­lel Jewish Pri­mary School in South­gate is a trailblazer. Head teacher Ja­son Marantz and his team, have made school meals a pri­or­ity. With not a tur­key twiz­zler in sight, it is an ex­am­ple for ev­ery school on how to op­er­ate nu­tri­tious and suc­cess­ful school din­ners. The pro­ject was ini­ti­ated by Shirley Co­hen, then bur­sar, in early 2008. Shirley re­tired in April of that year and her suc­ces­sor, An­gela Shaf­fer (the school’s busi­ness man­ager), con­tin­ued her work on the pro­ject. Se­ing the link be­tween good food and good school re­sults, they de­cided to re­place the school’s di­lap­i­dated kitchen. The pro­ject was closely planned by a team called “The Food Fo­rum”, made up of par­ents, school busi­ness man­ager, lo­cal au­thor­ity nu­tri­tion­ists, teach­ers, and the newly ap­pointed cater­ing com­pany, Cater­plus.

The new kitchen in­cluded state of the art steam ovens — ideal for healthy cook­ing. No nu­tri­ents are lost dur­ing the cook­ing process and no ex­tra fat needs to be added. The tex­ture, colour and shape of the food is also re­tained, un­like in a con­ven­tional oven. What is more, there is no trans­fer of flavours or odours be­tween foods, so sweet and savoury dishes can be cooked at the same time, with­out ad­versely af­fect­ing the food.

Ja­son Marantz said “if the chil­dren eat a healthy, bal­anced and ex­cit­ing diet they will be able to work ef­fec­tively and learn well. They will be­have bet­ter and feel good. A pleas­ant meal­time ex­pe­ri­ence is also so­cia­ble which is im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity ethos.”

Menus are re­viewed by nu­tri­tion­ists, par­ents, gov­er­nors and the school coun­cil to en­sure they are bal­anced. A spe­cially ap­pointed lunchtime man­ager (who is not a teacher) runs the lunch ser­vice and greets stu­dents as they ar­rive.

Ev­ery child’s food tray is mon­i­tored to en­sure a bal­ance of pro­tein, car­bo­hy­drates and veg­eta­bles. Colour coded plates for dif­fer- Broc­coli spears and sweet­corn

Peach crum­ble with parev cus­tard

A se­lec­tion from the bas­ket ent food groups aid se­lec­tion. Chil­dren with food al­ler­gies are man­aged and mon­i­tored by the Food Fo­rum, and no child es­capes the gen­tle nur­tur­ing of their well-di­rected ad­vice; even fussy eaters are per­suaded to fill their plates with a bal­anced se­lec­tion.

A sam­ple meal may in­clude a choice of sand­wich or salad op­tion, main course, car­bo­hy­drate, veg­etable, dessert or fruit. All desserts are made with re­duced lev­els of fat and sugar. There are sea­sonal ad­di­tions — menus at Rosh Hashanah in­clude honey cakes and at Pesach they have a model seder. There are also spe­cial mul­ti­cul­tural weeks, when Afro-Caribbean and Chinese events fur­ther broaden the eat­ing habits of the chil­dren.

“Eat­ing the Hil­lel Way” rules that chil­dren must en­ter the din­ing hall, get their food and eat in a well-man­nered fash­ion and then talk softly to their ta­ble mates. It seems to work: the chil­dren sit in class groups like a fam­ily house­hold and the at­mos­phere is calm and con­tent.

Empty plates, full tum­mies and smil­ing faces are ev­i­dent all around and, as im­por­tantly, teach­ers have re­marked on im­prove­ments in the be­hav­iour of the chil­dren, their abil­ity to con­cen­trate in lessons and gen­eral school con­duct.

Jamie Oliver has yet to win the war on ready meals, chips and chocolate, but Ja­son Marantz and his team have def­i­nitely been vic­to­ri­ous at Hil­lel.

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