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Prue Leith takes school catering 'Beyond the Classroom'

The GBBO star joined forces with industry experts, Principals, to offer school leaders new perspectives on the future of school catering

Posted by Julian Owen | January 31, 2018 | Catering & hospitality

Beyond the Classroom brought together parents, nutritionists, headteachers, school business managers and pupils to discuss the importance of developing an early awareness and understanding of food and lifestyle choices. It also launched Principals’ 2018 initiatives, looking to enable schools to give pupils, parents and guardians the “knowledge and life skills to embrace a healthy approach to food that will benefit their wellbeing and the environment”.

A leading expert and commentator on food and feeding young people, Prue Leith brought attendees up to speed on the current status of school food and spoke candidly about the difficult task ahead: reversing the obesity crisis and creating a nation eating well and sustainably. Topics discussed included: the role of the headteacher; the role of parents and guardians; the impact of academies; whether ‘choice’ is beneficial or detrimental; the future of the packed lunch; the power of the manufacturer; and the value of food and nutrition on the curriculum.

Lord Paul Boateng, chairman of the English Speaking Union, spoke about the unique education charity and its work to equip young people with the oracy skills and confidence to change their lives and communities for the better.

“For many children, their only hope of learning to eat well is at school.'

Broadening the debate to include input from those directly affected by food in school – the pupils – a group of 20 specially invited primary school children were given the opportunity to ask speakers the questions important to them. These focused on: bringing food trends into schools; meat free and vegan diets; school meals versus packed lunch; school meals in other countries; free school meals; school gardens and family cookery classes.

Principals revealed the ‘Beyond the Classroom’ initiatives designed to help schools bring food, nutrition and sustainability to life for teachers, pupils, parents and guardians. Focusing on the following three core areas throughout the year, the programme can be adapted for individual schools with optional events, pop-ups and activities:

 - Waste notspring term will look to 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 hopes to broaden children’s knowledge of food, giving them a greater understanding of where our food comes from

 - Family cookingautumn term will champion the joy of cooking at home. Through online videos, shopping tips, cookery classes and recipes, parents and guardians will be helped to cook healthy, sustainable meals for the family

Prue Leith said: “For many children, their only hope of learning to eat well is at school. Caterers can do that vital job, by getting kids to love good food. I think learning about food— cooking, growing sustainably, food politics — is every bit as important as maths and English. 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.”

Peter McKenna, Principals’ Sales Manager, 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.”

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