School Dinners – Behind the Scenes!

In today’s fast-paced world, children are not as fit or healthy as they were a few generations ago. An imbalanced diet and an equally unhealthy lifestyle have led to an increase of diseases linked with inactivity and obesity at a very early age. This is where a balanced meal comes into play and for many school going children, school dinner is now the only balanced and complete meal they have during the day.

A school dinner is not just about eating a meal. In fact, it is a social experience in which students learn table etiquette and how to interact with others. Unlike earlier versions, school meals are not about chips alone. With the government and parents keeping a close watch on what children eat, the quality of food being served in schools is under constant scrutiny.

An Increase in Awareness

Children love burgers, pizza and other junk food and when given the opportunity, they prefer such food to the more nutritional ones. To appease these unhealthy eating habits, schools served meals that included junk food, which is relatively very low in nutritional value.

However, parents today want their children to eat a balanced and healthy meal at school. With the increase in awareness about the growing trends of eating disorders and diseases related to unhealthy food, schools are expected to ensure high quality food in school dinners.

With various campaigns and TV shows, such as the one by celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, and another one by the famous football player, Ian Wright, the focus has now shifted on providing better quality food and balanced meals in schools. Even traditional snacks such as fries and a can of coke are being replaced with healthy packets of fruits and vegetables. Vending machines now stock foods such as salads, sandwiches, fruits, and juices.

School Catering Today

The increase in awareness and the need for balanced meals pose a greater challenge for catering companies, as they need to cook up meals that not only appeal to the eyes and the taste buds of the children, but also rank high on the nutritional scale. The healthier food options need to be made to look glamourous enough to please children and get them attracted towards it. Thus, the school dinner menus have changed dramatically over the years, with more healthy and nutritious meal options being included.

As the catering companies are including healthier options in their menus, they are facing greater resistance from none other thsn the school children. School kids have become accustomed to eating highly processed diets and are therefore not in the favour of this change.

Moreover, with the increased demand for healthier food, processed food has been marked off the list and kitchens that are well-equipped to prepare meals from scratch are being encouraged. Such kitchens serve hot meals that have reportedly been said to have reduced fussy eating among kids. However, a fully-fledged kitchen not only requires ample space but also a whole lot of cooking equipment and tools.

These kitchens, in turn, require fully-trained staff and cooks who can prepare complete school meals for children. As parents are becoming too busy to pack lunches for their kids, the number of children signing up for schools meals is increasing constantly. This, as a result, has given rise to the need for trained staff.

Along with healthier food options now available and encouraged in schools, there is also an emphasis on educating children about healthy food and increasing physical activity. Such practices will not only lead to a better and healthier lifestyle but will also inculcate habits that a child can carry throughout their lives.

Colin is writing on behalf of catering equipment manufacturer Teknomek.co.uk

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