What is your child eating for lunch?

By Denise Phillips, November 19, 2009
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What do your children eat at school? I have examined the provision of Jewish secondary schools in London and it is clear to me that most of the schools are following the government guidelines of no chips, limited ketchup, no salt, no nuts and vending machines that cannot sell fizzy drinks, chocolate, crisps and similar style of snacks, while water is available at all times. Staff had put an enormous amount of attention into content, method of payment and in many cases I was extremely impressed.

The general format of secondary school lunch service is café / buffet-style with a good choice of options and no real teacher supervision, giving pupils complete choice over what they eat — or what they do not eat!

Hasmonean High School for Boys

530 boys (50 per cent eat school lunch).

Both the boys’ and the girls’ schools are supervised by the same management team. Lunches are provided by Hermolis, plus they have a range of sandwiches from DD’s, which are lower in fat and mayonnaise free. The cooked lunches exclude MSG and ready-made stocks and are low in salt.

Lunch facility: school lunch and packed-lunch option.
Meat and vegetable options: there is a vegetarian option as well as milky and meaty hot lunches.
Teacher attitude: 8
Standard of lunch: 7
Atmosphere in dining hall: all seemed happy and portions were generous.
Pupils’ view: 8
Special initiatives: the school has a very successful breakfast club. All the hot meal options are automatically served with vegetables. Students are involved in the whole system and even have a rota for running the cash desk. Others, as part of a business enterprise project, run a toasted cheese machine.

Hasmonean High School for Girls

485 girls (20 per cent eat school lunch).

Lunch facility: this is similar to the boy’s school but had more vegetarian options, more salads and the food was a little more adventurous — for example, tomato and olive bread as opposed to plain wholemeal. Meat was served less frequently. Cooking was also an important part of the curriculum and in both schools, pupils were taught make a Shabbat meal and even sushi by year eight.
Future plans: both schools intend to have a cashless system using thumb prints.

JFS

2,000 pupils (100 per cent eat school lunch, which enables the school to be more committed to pupils’ needs and requirements).

Lunch facility: milky only, provided by Cater Link. Vegetable options, two main courses, wide salad variety and sandwich/wrap available.
Teacher attitude: 10
Standard of lunch: 10
Atmosphere in dining hall: Very happy and sociable.
Pupils’ view: 10
Special initiatives: there is a pay-by-card system. Looking to provide a café service for the sixth formers.

King Solomon High School

860 pupils (100 per cent eat school lunch).

Lunch facility: milky, catered by Cater Link.
Vegetable options: numerous varieties of vegetables and a salad selection.
Teacher attitude: 10
Standard of lunch: 9
Atmosphere in dining hall: 9
Pupils View: 8/9
Special initiatives: there is a card system for payment, which enables parents to monitor what their children have been buying. A rota system of staff supervises meal times and ensures that they eat a balanced meal. The school has theme days, for example. Indian and Chinese are always popular.

Kisharon Day School (Special Needs School)

24 pupils 100 per cent eat school lunch).

Lunch facility: milky — cooked lunch made by own staff on the premises.
Vegetable options: Varied weekly, but limited.
Teacher Attitude: 10
Standard of Lunch: 7
Pupils’ view: 8
Special initiatives: world food salads are made by each class. The school sets healthy eating goals that are designed to encourage progress. Group eating and team skills help table manners and eating habits.

Lubavitch School For Girls

10 per cent of senior girls eat school lunch.

Lunch facility: meaty — cooked by school staff – no sandwich options. The girls seem to prefer plainer food, with shepherd’s pie and spaghetti bolognaise being their favourites.
Vegetable option: soup available daily, two vegetables, salad bar and fresh fruit on sale.
Teacher attitude: 5
Standard of lunch: 6
Pupils’ view: 7
Special Initiatives: cookery classes are proving popular and they have occasional taster sessions in the canteen so the girls can experiment.

Yavneh College

600 students (100 per cent eat school lunch).

Lunch facility: meat meal provided by Cater Plus – all food is cooked from scratch on the premises.
Vegetable option: Numerous options of salads, vegetables and fresh fruit.
Teacher attitude: 10
Standard of lunch: 10
Pupils’ view: 10
Special initiatives: Card system for payment is proving very successful with top ups via Pay Pal. In addition there are points for healthy options and at the end of the year, the top-scoring pupil receives a prize.

The school has a popular breakfast club and is applying for healthy-school status.

Other initiatives include an enrichment programme from Monday-Thursday for 40 minutes after lunch, which provides an opportunity for extra sporting activities, and the school has introduced incentives to encourage pupils to walk or cycle to school. At the end of the term, the class with the highest points gets a prize.

Immanuel College

370 pupils — school lunch provided.

Lunch facility: meaty — all those under year 12 have to eat school lunch. Sixth formers have a choice and 50 per cent still eat the main school meal. Paul Berlin provides the food and menus are chosen in advance each term by popular demand and in consultation with the school’s council.
Vegetable option: good selection of both hot and cold vegetables and a variety of salads.
Teacher attitude: 8
Standard of lunch: 9
Pupil’s view: 9
Special initiatives: water and fresh fruit available throughout the day so pupils are not tempted to eat unhealthy snacks.

A pastoral team of teachers run healthy eating awareness courses — chips and burgers are only on the menu once a fortnight.

Kind David High School, Liverpoo

This is a mixed high school with 662 students. School lunch 51% Packed lunch 49%

Lunch facility: It is a meaty kitchen and includes favourites like spaghetti bolognaise, schnitzel and meatballs. There is always a salad bar and numerous vegetarian options. Parents are provided with guidelines for school lunches which stipulate no confectionary and of course strictly kosher. The school teaches food tech which is very popular. It also provides a breakfast club.
Special initiatives: The whole King David campus is merging. At present the food is provided in-house but there are plans for it be contracted out. The head teacher is looking to implement a no-food-from-outside policy which will mean 100 per cent school lunch uptake.

Jewish Senior School For Boys, Salford, Manchester

All boys go home for lunch.

Menorah High School For Girls

No meals provided. Pupils must bring in their own packed lunches. These must be Kedassia and meet some other guidelines.

CONCLUSION

Although many schools are constrained by size or access to facilities, it is clear that the higher the percentage of pupils eating a supervised hot meal, the more chance they have of getting a balanced varied and healthy meal.

Packed lunches not only provide the temptation to include unhealthy snacks, but they also tend to lack variety and interest. School meals have improved enormously over the years and most schools now take health seriously and offer excellent choice and good value.

    Last updated: 12:09pm, November 19 2009