Schools up for healthy eating award

TASTELESS boiled cabbage, rock hard carrots and bland boiled potatoes are what many of us were used to when we were forced to tuck into a school dinner.

TASTELESS boiled cabbage, rock hard carrots and bland boiled potatoes are what many of us were used to when we were forced to tuck into a school dinner.

But in the age of campaigning celebrity chef Jamie Oliver all that is finally changing - and nowhere more so than at a pair of Suffolk schools that have received national recognition for the quality of their meals.

Nacton Primary, near Ipswich, and Stowmarket Middle have made it through to the second round in the McDougall's Healthiest School Food Award 2007 and are now up against only 20 other schools nationally.

Each entrant had to impress the judges with examples of how they have improved the quality of meals available, how they encouraged pupils to eat the food and the measures taken to integrate a healthy diet into the curriculum to educate children on making the right choices.

Elizabeth Ditton, headteacher at Nacton, said it had the second highest take-up of school meals in the county and that most of its vegetables are grown organically and supplied by a local farm.

“We incorporate healthy eating into our curriculum and the school council is very involved in giving feedback on what they enjoy and how we can make lunchtimes more attractive, such as by using tablecloths and having matching beakers and jugs,” she said.

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“It is all part of educating children about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and we are very pleased that our hard work has been acknowledged.”

Sally Holmes, headteacher at Stowmarket, said: “We are delighted our efforts have been recognised because we work very hard to encourage healthy eating and have a number of initiatives in place.

“For example we have a Healthy Hettie incentive scheme where every child gets a stamp if they have something healthy in their lunch box and actually eats it. When they get enough stamps they get a free swim at the leisure centre.

“We work with parents and Suffolk County Council and invite them to sample lunches. We also have questionnaires and analyse what the children like to eat and try to incorporate that into our healthy food.

“Our food tech lessons focus on healthy eating and as a result our pupils are more adventurous with food, especially with vegetables.”

The schools will now be asked to submit a week's menu for analysis by a panel of expert nutritionists so that the best six can be chosen before they are whittled down to a final three.

The McDougall's award, now in its second year, was introduced by RHM Foodservice to recognise and reward those schools that have implemented a whole school approach to healthy eating.

Among this year's judges is celebrity chef Paul Merrett, who presents BBC2's Ever Wondered About Food and trained under Gary Rhodes.

Mr Merrett said: “Improving school meals is about serving good food as much as it is about healthy food and I was really impressed to see menus that reflected the seasons and schools using organic and locally sourced ingredients.”

The winning school will receive the McDougall's Healthiest School Food Award 2007 along with a cheque for £1,500 to be invested back into healthy eating initiatives.

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