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Learning about food 'as important as maths and English’- Prue Leith urges school caterers to do more

31 Jan 2018
Caterer-turned-TV personality Prue Leith has urged school meals providers to play a greater role in helping to get kids to love good food from an early age.

Leith made the call at an event organised by CH&Co-owned school caterer, Principals, called ‘Beyond the Classroom’.

The event brought together parents, nutritionists, head teachers and pupils to discuss developing an early awareness and understanding of food among children.

Leith suggested that the importance of teaching pupils about cooking and growing sustainably should play as vital a role in education as that of core subjects such as maths and English.

“For many children their only hope of learning to eat well is at school. Caterers can do that vital job,” said Leith

“It’s wonderful to see Principals supporting them with realistic and exciting initiatives that can change mindsets and outcomes in classrooms, dining halls and homes. I welcomed the opportunity to support the Principals event.”

The Great British Bake Off judge brought attendees up to speed on the current status of school food and spoke about ways of tackling obesity and creating a nation of people “that eat well and sustainably”.

Topics discussed included: the role of the head teacher; the role of parents and guardians; the impact of academies; is ‘choice’ beneficial or detrimental; the future of the packed lunch; the power of the manufacturer; and the value of food and nutrition on the curriculum.

Pupils were given the chance to ask speakers questions on what was important to them. These focused on: bringing food trends into schools; meat free and vegan diets; school meals vs packed lunch; school meals in other countries; free school meals; school gardens and family cookery classes.

Principals’ sales manager Peter McKenna said the company's new programme will focus on three keys areas and can be adapted for individual schools through optional events, pop-ups and activities. These areas are-

  • Waste not – spring term will raise awareness of sustainability and challenge children, parents, guardians and teachers to measure their daily waste and look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Foraging – an introduction to foraging in the summer term will broaden children’s knowledge of food, giving them a greater understanding of where our food comes from, local and seasonal produce, and nature’s great bounty
  • Family cooking – autumn term will champion the joy of cooking at home. Through online videos, shopping tips, cookery classes and recipes, parents and guardians will be equipped to cook healthy, sustainable meals for the family.

McKenna said: “Schools are well placed to drive change through direct communication and action with pupils, parents and guardians.

“By showing them the benefits of healthy eating and giving them the life skills to choose and cook healthy sustainable dishes, behaviours can be changed for the better, regardless of background.

“Principals has over 26 years expertise in food, nutrition and school catering and we have a duty to share this knowledge. Our ‘Beyond the Classroom’ campaign has been specifically designed to give schools the resources to encourage healthy and sustainable eating at school and at home, without adding to their already pressured workload.”