Youngsters get into healthy eating

CHIPS might always be their number one choice - but children across Suffolk are clearly warming up to the idea of a healthy lunch.

CHIPS might always be their number one choice - but children across Suffolk are clearly warming up to the idea of a healthy lunch.

The number of primary school children eating school meals in the county has risen for the first time since healthier menus were introduced in 2006 as a result of the “Jamie Oliver” effect.

Between April and June this year, more than 15,500 schools meals were served every day in Suffolk's primary schools - 3.2 per cent higher compared to the same period last year.

And it's not hard to see why with Italian chicken, cod and salmon fishcakes and pasta bolognese with home-baked bread among the delights on offer.

Chris Denny, Suffolk County Council's catering manager, said schools in the county were now cooking up more fresh food on-site than most restaurants.

“The menus have adapted over the last few years,” he said.

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“It's taken a while for some children to get used to. It's about getting the support from parents so we can work together.”

A whole range of initiatives have been put in place to encourage the uptake of school meals including themed days serving cuisine around the globe and inviting parents in to see what is on offer.

But it is not all about green leaves, vegetables and fresh fruit.

Bosses understand the importance of a treat now and then and Friday's menu gives kids the option of good old fish and chips.

And it certainly appeared to be a popular choice at Gusford Primary School in Ipswich.

Bronwyn Hawkins, seven, who chose fish, chips and peas and a strawberry and banana smoothie for lunch, said: “I love fish and chips. I look forward to it. I also like roast dinners.

“We have learnt about healthy eating in class. We've read some healthy eating books. I eat all my greens.”

Tamsyn Hawkins, Bronwyn's mother, said she is extremely happy with the school dinner system and the menu choice.

“Bronwyn comes home trying things she has never tried before so I have to start cooking it!” she said.

“She gets to try new things. We try and eat healthily at home. Her father is diabetic so we have to keep an eye on what we eat.

“We cheat occasionally but we do our best with plenty of fruit and vegetables.”

Nationally, there has been a 2.3pc increase in the take-up of school meals among primary schools in England to 43.6pc, according to a survey from the School Food Trust and the Local Authority Caterers Association.

The number of children choosing to have school dinners plummeted in 2005/06.

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

The chef's Feed Me Better campaign attracted 271,677 signatures of support and led to the Government investing an extra £280million to improve school meals in England.

School dinners: sample week in Suffolk

Monday: Pasta bolognese served with home-baked herby bread and fresh seasonal vegetables. Fruity chocolate cracknel

Tuesday: Burger in a home-made bap served with sauté potatoes, baked beans and sweetcorn. Vanilla crunch and custard

Wednesday: Chicken mini fillet served with jacket wedges, green beans/carrots. Fruit salad or fruit platter

Thursday: Roast pork and gravy or roast turkey served with roast potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables or shepherdess pie served with a selection of vegetables and potatoes. Banana muffin with custard.

Friday: Haddock nibbles served with chipped potatoes, baked beans/peas or cheese and bean filled Yorkshire pudding served with vegetables and potatoes. Fruit crumble and ice cream