Tag Archives: school caterers

Relaunching School Food World AND the inaugural International School Meals Day

School Food World had a bit of stumbling start last year, but we’re re-launching with the hopes of doing a better job of living up to our aims of reporting, promoting, and celebrating best practice in schools catering around the world.

So with our first post of 2013 and marking our relaunch we have the honour of announcing that the inaugural International School Meals Day will take place on March 8th this year.

Many in the catering and school meals industry will be familiar with School Meals Week. In the UK and the US School Meals Week celebrates the many different aspects and benefits of school meals for children in those respective countries. In the UK, the last School Meals Week was an even greater success than previous years with more schools than ever taking part. It also saw the release of this report on the views of parents and the nutritional standards, particularly in respect of Academies being excused from adhering to the standards.

It was hoped originally to link School Meal Week in the UK with the one in the U.S. but differing term times and holiday periods has made that difficult. So instead people on both sides of the pond have set about establishing an International School Meals Day which will hope to highlight and celebrate the importance of school meals all around the world.

The inaugural day and the concept paper behind it is the result of an evolving UK and US relationship centred on practice and policy about promoting healthy eating in schools. For two years caterers and other interested parties on both sides of the Atlantic have been sharing examples through workshops, conferences and study visits to improve best practice in both countries. They also share similar challenges

The aim of International School Meals Day (#ISMD2013) is to focus and publicise the efforts, expertise and successes of both groups, but also allow other caterers around the world to participate and share their own.

The aims of the Day are:

  • To highlight the value of nutrition in school meals around the world and to encourage those involved with school food service to improve the quality and standards of school food.

 

  • To emphasise the connection between healthy eating and better learning, and to promote the integration of nutrition education into schools’ curricula.

 

  • To connect children around the world via different media platforms and encourage healthy eating habits and promote wellbeing in schools as a valuable way of life to pass on to future generations.

 

  • To share school meal programme success stories from across the globe so that others may learn and replicate best practice.

 

  • To promote and support research activities in school meals programmes to demonstrate their impact on child wellbeing.

 

  • To raise awareness of hunger and poverty issues worldwide and particularly in developing countries which are being addressed through school feeding programmes, and to highlight successes and those who need support.

 

Of course individual countries and organisations will have different ideas for how they wish to celebrate International School Meals Day but the organisers have some ideas on how people can join in and support the aims of the day. For instance:

  • Twinning of schools via international education links
  • Have an international menu day
  • Hold fundraising activities to support school feeding programmes in developing countries
  • Add food and global citizenship to the curriculum that day
  • Run cooking activities with an international theme
  • Go mad on social media to highlight innovation in your school
  • Publish your research to coincide with the day
  • Promote your efforts to the media

What other suggestions do you have for celebrating International School Meals Day? Will you get involved?

School Food World aims to support and publicise the first International School Meals Day, so if you plan on getting involved and you’d like to share your activities do contact us via Twitter @SchoolFoodWorld, on Facebook, or email us via info@schoolfoodworld.co.uk.

News round-up

It’s been a while between stories, so here’s a neat little round-up of innovations in school food around the world that caught our eye over the past few days.

In the US, school food provider Preferred Meal Systems has an online service that lets parents find out more about the menu and nutritional content of their children’s lunches and school breakfasts.

By logging onto www.schoolmenu.com parents in some districts will be able to access the nutrition information of each meal. And of course the meals now adhere to the new standards. The information is accessible in pop-ups as the cursor moves over the page.

Other information on payment etc. is also available, and there will also be blogs and information from a panel experts. You can read more about it here.

 

Researchers have shown that caterers can use the same techniques that marketers use to sell junk food, to help children make healthier choices in the canteen.

In advertising it’s not unusual to use familiar cartoon characters, TV icons and superheroes to sell cereals, pasta shapes or sweets, but researchers at Cornell University New York found that using well known characters on healthy products would also prompt children to choose them.

So when apples had an Elmo sticker (from Sesame Street) children picked them rather than choosing cookies or sweets. Read the original report with a link to the Cornell findings here.

 

There’s an interview here with Kate Adamick who has a new book out called Lunch Money: Serving Healthy School Food in a Sick Economy.

She runs a Lunch Teachers boot camp which teaches school caterers how to budget effectively and still serve fresh healthy meals.

 

School Nutrition Association in the USA has conducted a survey of foodservice professionals in the nation’s schools and found that more than 90% of those responding think that meeting the new standards will incur greater costs, and 67% of districts believe that the federal reimbursement for school meals will not cover the cost of producing them.

So, many have got creative when it comes to encouraging students to try and therefore buy the meals. More than 87% were doing taste tests with students on new menu items, and therefore engaging students in menu selection, while others were offering free samples to promote familiarity with new dishes. You can read the full report here.

 

In Rhode Island USA school caterer Sodexo has teamed up with a local farm which will produce fresh fruit and vegetables for schools in 11 communities. The Pezza Farm has turned over 15 acres to the project which will enable kids to eat fresh, local produce as part of their school lunches.

 

This Washington Post feature describes how school cafeterias in the US are using supermarket display techniques to encourage students to eat more fruit and veg. By placing bright bowls in easy to grab places kids were taking fruit more regularly, and some operators even taking fruit out into the playground for children to eat on the spot.

Others were marketing veg using labels like ‘mellow yellow corn’ to make their dishes sound more interesting, or using competition promotions to encourage children to make healthier choices, or even trying surprising and challenging ideas to throw down the gauntlet on hard to please kids with ‘Fear Factor Smoothies’ containing different ingredients like spinach.

But it seems to be paying off because teachers are already feeding back that classroom behaviours are improving.

 

A complete overhaul of the school cafeterias in Palm Beach County has renewed interest in school lunches as the restaurants now resemble a modern food court.

Instead of the standard counters and lines, in the ‘Cafe Atlantic’ students can visit different stands including Asian Xperience, Café Sol y Mar (Spanish), Mangia Mangia (Italian), Atlantic Gourmet Deli and Beyond Burgers to get their lunches.

As well as being modern and appealing to trendy teens, the stands reduce queues and waiting times for students who also benefit from better seating and four flat screen TVs.

The improvements have been a big hit with students at Atlantic High and will be rolled out to other schools in the area. Here’s the full report.

 

And finally, a new study has shown that changing the food that’s available in vending machines may be the best way to slow childhood obesity.

The study in the journal Pediatrics tracked teens in 40 states over three years and found a strong correlation between the children’s weight and the state rules governing so-called ‘competitive foods’ which are the freely available vended food and drinks outside the usual lunch programme.

Students in states which had strict laws on the kinds of food and drinks available in vending machines gained on average 2.2 lb less than those living in states that did not have such strict legislation, or even none at all.

Similarly, children that were overweight in the fifth grade had a much better chance of attaining a healthy BMI by the time they reached the eighth grade in states with laws, than those without.

This could show that in order for the new nutritional standards on school lunches to have the full effect, uniform laws on the products available from vending machines will also have to be introduced nation-wide. The full story can be read here.

 

Innovative NOLA – New Orleans New School Lunches

School caterers well known in the UK are partnering a fantastic school lunch innovation in New Orleans, USA.

Thirty six per cent of Louisiana school children aged between 10 and 17 years have been shown to be overweight, and those from a minority or low income background are the most affected. Because they eat the majority of their daily calories and around two thirds of their meals at school, changing the school food is a great way to tackle this.

In a bid to address the issue, a New Orleans social enterprise organisation called Propeller: A Force for Innovation is leading an initiative that will deliver more than 10,000 healthy school dinners per day to 28 schools across New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Propeller have received funding for the initiative from a number of trusts including the W.K Kellog Foundation, Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. And in order to deliver the meals, they have partnered with Revolution Foods who have expertise in providing healthy school meals, and KIPP New Orleans Schools to create what they call the School Food Authority.

The programme has set some healthy food standards which the school lunches must comply with, including rules that nothing is fried, that there are no hormones or nitrates in the meat, no canned fruit or veg, and no high-fructose corn syrup. Instead each meal is made from scratch, contains a fresh fruit and vegetable and 5% of the produce must have been sourced from local farmers.

Signing up to provide these meals under these terms are caterers Chartwells, Sodexo, Liberty’s Kitchen and Revolution Foods. For local producers who have traditionally found it hard to break into the farm to school supply chain, it’s a significant step and a great opportunity.

Getting the initiative off the ground has taken three years but feedback on the new lunches has already been great with some teachers reporting that students say they feel more full after their healthier meals, and are paying better attention in afternoon classes.

Getting positive outcomes from the students is one of the programme’s key goals and Propeller have set in place monitoring plans to check food quality, student participation, student behaviours, and their attitudes towards the initiative. The hope is that in the long term this could provide a best practice model of healthy school food provision that could be rolled out on a wider basis across the nation.

For more information you can see the original report here.