National School Meals Week

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Are you ready for National Schools Meals Week?

National School Meals Week is a great opportunity to involve children more in their daily meals. We already have all sorts of financial incentives to make them try school meals, but here are some different ideas to get them thinking about food and trying new things.

1. Fine dining

Lay out the canteen with proper crockery and cutlery – yes, and table cloths!

Make the children experience different ways of eating. If this is too much for your school, make it a ‘Headteachers Table’, where a couple of children from each class get to experience it for one meal with the Head! It’s a great way of praising different children and a very different experience for lunches. If it’s a success, carry it on every week!

2. Different and unusual food and vegetables

Children are notoriously picky, but also immensely curious. Get unusual fruit and vegetables out and ready for sampling at the serving hatch. You’ll find that the more they experiment, the more they eat their actual dinners.

Go round different classes in the afternoon with a tray of food to try and with the class teachers discuss the different senses and how the children could describe what they ate.

3. Inviting older generations in for dinner

Go round care homes with invitations from the children of different classes. Invite older generations to come in and sit with the children for dinner and not just for Christmas! Again the children get conversations, eat better, and older people have a great time, and a good meal!

4. Cookery club

Even in an infant’s school, a cookery club is a great idea. Children as young as 5 can use big knives safely. Most importantly, it gives children an ideal opportunity to talk about food, cookery and healthy eating.

Have an after-school or an afternoon session run or assisted by the kitchen staff to get the children cooking. You can make pizzas, biscuits, cupcakes, flat breads, all cooked in the school ovens by the kitchen staff, and brought back safely to class! If the thought of cooking hot food worries you, do fruit salads, biscuits you firm up in the fridge or dips.

5. Try a new meal day

Children usually stay safe with their choices. Have a tapas-style tasting dish for them to try small tastes of new meals. It means many of them can try food they have never tried before.

6. Food from round the world

Try a day of food from a different country, where children spend the morning learning some vocabulary and researching food. At dinner time, they can then use their new knowledge in the canteen to order their food. For example, you can even set the canteen up as a café where they can use change their money and buy their food too. It’s certainly an ideal opportunity to involve parents and have a full day of the international cuisine of your choice.

It’s best if this is a whole school event. You can create a real buzz around the school. Moreover, all the core subjects can be addressed in different ways, and you can cover subjects like PSHE with healthy eating topics in class before they go to lunch. However, be careful to check what is on the menu so that you don’t create problems for the kitchen staff!

Food is a central part of any culture. We have a great opportunity in National School Meals Week to open our children’s minds to different experiences. In addition, we make the kitchen and kitchen staff a real part of the school. It is a real education, in these days of ready meals and eating in front of the TV, to give them different experiences.

Links

Find out more about Chefs in Schools and their mission to get 100 chefs in 100 schools by 2023 – so that children can learn to eat, cook and love real food.

Janet O. Smith

Janet is an Education PhD student in a northern HE institution. She has strong feelings about the power of education to genuinely transform lives, but fears that our current system does more harm than good especially to teachers. She completed her PGCE in 1985 and since then has done infant, junior, secondary, further and higher education teaching and lecturing, with some community development training thrown in for good measure.

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