A lot more is expected from school caterers than in the past. The catering team is now required to provide a food service that is enticing and following the latest food trends.
However, there is also a responsibility to ensure that the food is healthy and meets the nutritional needs for a range of dietary requirements including food allergies, food intolerances, vegan and vegetarianism.
The number of independent schools seeking nutritional expertise and support has increased significantly in recent months. This trend appears to tie in with the publication of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan and the sugar reduction strategy, which have received extensive press coverage, highlighting the effects of a poor diet on child health including dental decay, weight gain and diabetes.
As a result, parents have more awareness and interest in the sugar, fat and salt content in their children’s diets and expect school meals to be providing food that is nutritious and of the highest quality.
Anna-Maria Holt RD, company dietitian and health and wellbeing lead at Pelican Procurement Services, who is registered with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) and is also a member of the British Dietetic Association (BDA), said: “Over the last six months I have been asked by a large number of school caterers, who are responsible for in-house catering operations, to help them demonstrate to parents and pupils that their menu is nutritionally appropriate.
I review their menus and provide the nutrition expertise and guidance supporting them to produce school meals that offer a healthy balance
“I review their menus and provide the nutrition expertise and guidance supporting them to produce school meals that offer a healthy balance. Sometimes it can be as simple as tweaking the original recipe by adding or removing ingredients. I also recommend recipes that work really well in other schools.
“As a registered dietitian, I am trained to provide evidence-based guidance and apply the sector appropriate standards to ensure menus are nutritionally adequate. Although independent schools are not required to meet the School Food Regulations (2014), it is good practice for independent schools to meet the School Food Standards as a minimum requirement.
“This gives catering managers the basic building blocks on which to plan their menus and enhance their offering as their food budgets allow. Catering managers have found that, by meeting the regulations, it provides peace of mind and a framework to demonstrate to parents that the school meals are of a good standard.”