Despite the number of students taking school meals rising for the third consecutive year, the Schools Fund Trust are trying to galvanise that figure and attract even more as the majority of pupils still opt out of the traditional school dinner and either eat off premises or bring their own lunches from home.
In order to make the menus more tempting for pupils and to reach out to their parents to encourage their children to take their meals in school, the SFT has outlined a schedule of cost-effective cookery courses, which will be made available for everyone in the school-meal chain. But this is not just an education for those who are intended to serve the food, but also aimed to double up as practical cookery classes that will leave a marked impression on the pupils.
The criteria of the cookery course is to focus on a balanced, healthy menu to deliver a diet that can help the pupils realise their potential whilst they’re in education and hopefully be a lesson for life afterwards. Ingraining healthy-eating practises at the formative age is thought to be key to developing children into their optimum physical make up and mental mind set as they study for exams that will have a bearing long after they have sat their final exams.
The cookery courses will take on the format of one-day classes, starting with a bold attempt to rid the stigma of free school meals through targeted marketing. The day will also look to educate attendees in how to incorporate healthy food into a menu that will make meal-times fun, provide essential nutrients in the food that have been missing from school dinners (according to SFT research) and also bring the balance of each and every meal up to advisory guidelines.
Since the SFT was founded in 2005 they have worked tirelessly to bring school menus up to date with the thinking of the day; the cookery courses are designed to iron out the creases in the current culinary curriculum but, as that is subject to change with guidelines being constantly updated, the menu has to retain flexibility so there is not so much as an overhaul, rather a tweak, the next time Jamie Oliver or someone in Brussels has a Eureka! moment. Working in their advisory capacity to the government, the SFT learning curve has not been one-sided; they are continually developing partnerships with schools, which has helped to shape the individual cookery classes that, at £150 (it is a registered charity, after all), they are sure will be a boon and snipped up by heads keen to be seen as market leaders in their school meals, as well as other academic areas.
Kicking off in the capital and the second city, London and Birmingham will be the guinea pigs in autumn before rolling out nationwide with the menus that have been tried tested in the partner schools that have both benefited from and contributed to the SFT menu as part of the research campaign.
Out goes the “Dad, can you help with Pythagoras?”; in comes, “Mom, can you help with the Paella?” How times have changed…