To celebrate World Food Day, take a tour of school canteens to see what’s cooking in the way of solutions – for poor diets and global warming…
Do you eat school lunches? Are they any good?
It’s not easy to make tasty meals for lots of people all at once and not spend much money. Most people aren’t great fans of canteen food. But things are getting better in some schools. Why do you think?
Well, people realise we should eat more healthily – and help the planet by cutting down on transport, waste, plastic packaging and other things around our food.
So to celebrate World Food Day (October 16), here’s our school dinners menu!
Starter: Salad and crunchy carrots, fresh this morning from the school farm
Problems? Food often comes from far away. That means burning fuel, which adds to global warming. Also, on farms, chemicals that kill insects or help plants grow can get onto our plates.
Solution ! At Mouans-Sartoux, in France, the schools share their own farm in the town – so no transport. And it’s organic (so, no chemicals!) and kids can watch their lunch grow before they eat it. More taste, less pollution, lower costs – and healthy, happy children!
Main course: Katsu chicken with Japanese cabbage, cooked by posh restaurant chefs
Problems? Many school meals are cooked far away, they come by truck, wrapped in plastic and they get reheated in school microwaves. Often not very tasty or healthy.
Solution! Jake and Sam were top chefs at a fancy London restaurant. Now they have a new job at Woodmansterne School. So no more microwave pizza made in a factory, but delicious treats made fresh on the spot. It’s super tasty, so kids scoff the lot and nothing’s wasted. Plus ‘school-made’ dishes are cheaper than buying it in!
Pudding : A big choice of desserts and cheeses – help yourself!
Problem: In school canteens, kids load up their trays and then find they don’t have room at the end of the meal for the pudding. Good food wasted!
Solution: The Max Jacob Middle School in Orléans, in France, operates a “Swap Table” for puddings and cheeses. If you’ve taken more than you can eat, you can offer it up to someone who’s still feeling peckish. Or maybe you fancy chocolate instead of the apple you put on your tray? Swap it! The school has massively cut food waste with smart ideas like that.
And something for the weekend…?
Problem: One of the worst things about food waste in schools is that some children don’t get enough to eat when they go home because their parents can’t afford good meals.
Solution: In America, at the Woodland School in Elkhart, Indiana, they turn unused canteen food into specially made frozen ready-meals. On Friday afternoons, kids that need them can take home a week’s supply to eat at the weekend and evenings at home. They’re tasty and healthy, less gets wasted – and no one goes hungry!
Do you have bright ideas for how to make your school lunches better? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. We’d love to share the best suggestions!
And finally, which is your favourite school meal out of this selection from around the world?
School meals are a big part of our food intake but they are often not very good, either for our health or for the planet.
New ways to make fresh, tasty, healthy meals in school kitchens, with less waste, less cost and less pollution.
The folks in Mouans-Sartoux are leading a veritable revolution in school kitchens across Europe. Their website, in English, explains more.
For more on the restaurant chefs finding a new mission in the canteen, The Observer in London had this piece last month.
And for more on the Indiana take-home meals for those with less good diets at home, here’s Good Housekeeping on that story, too.