School meals back on the menu

SCHOOL meals in Suffolk are gradually regaining popularity after suffering a backlash as a result of the “Jamie Oliver” effect, it has emerged.Catering bosses in the county have seen a steady rise in the number of children opting for school meals this year, with youngsters apparently becoming more used to the nutritious food on offer.

SCHOOL meals in Suffolk are gradually regaining popularity after suffering a backlash as a result of the “Jamie Oliver” effect, it has emerged.

Catering bosses in the county have seen a steady rise in the number of children opting for school meals this year, with youngsters apparently becoming more used to the nutritious food on offer.

The number of children choosing to have school dinners in Suffolk reached an all-time low in 2005/06 when just 14,790 were served a day compared to 19,000 in 2000.

The cause was put down to negative publicity surrounding the quality of school meals in Jamie Oliver's 2005 documentary where he revealed how little some schools in south-east London spent on pupils meals.

But the healthier menus turned many pupils off and catering managers have been trying to entice them back ever since.

Chris Denny, from Suffolk catering services, said: “We try to work closely with the schools to develop healthy school links. We have well-trained staff and are in a much better position than other parts of the country.

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“I think the children are seeing their friends eating the meals and realising it's a better option than a packed lunch.”

Mr Denny said a copy of a standard menu was sent to all parents across Suffolk to promote school meals.

There are also themed days with international food to gain the children's interest and taster sessions so that pupils can try new cuisine.

As a result, catering bosses are planning further initiatives in the New Year to encourage meal uptake and are planning to spend more than £400,000 on locally-sourced food.

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