Primary schools take control of lunchtime meals

Ferrars kitchen staff and Mark Passarelli the Catering Manager
Ferrars kitchen staff and Mark Passarelli the Catering Manager

Pupils from four Luton Primary Schools are enjoying a new take on school dinners thanks to a new school initiative.

Food Counts was the idea of the business manager and the headteacher at Ferrars Junior School, Lewsey Road, after the school decided it wanted more control over the school dinners provided for the children.

Ferrars children at lunch time

Ferrars children at lunch time

It took over 18 months of planning to turn the idea into a reality, with Downside, Pirton Hill and Beech Hill Primary schools being heavily involved in the process and now also serving their school dinners under the Food Counts brand.

Food Counts was established to improve the diet and nutrition of children, primarily through management of the school meals service.

Brian Herbert, business manager at Ferrars Junior School, said: “As a school we wanted control over what type of food we were serving the children and how much we were allowed to serve.

“In the past there were strict portion controls on how much food the children could have, but now we have full control over that and who supplies the food to us.

Wraps and Salads at Ferrars

Wraps and Salads at Ferrars

“It is about the whole dining experience, with cutlery and jugs of water on the table when the children come in to the dining hall. The children help themselves, it is very grown up and a new experience for a lot of them.”

All four schools have complete control over their kitchens and have employed an experienced chef, Mark Passerelli, to oversee the operation.

Anne McCarthy, headteacher at Ferrars Junior School, said: “The staff and governors at the schools wanted a radical improvement to the nutritional benefit of meals provided, to improve the eating culture and experience within the schools and to improve educational attainment and behaviour through nutrition.

“Children are now eating fruit and vegetables they have never seen before and tasting a wide range of foods.

Fruit from Ferrars

Fruit from Ferrars

The schools and their kitchens are now working closely together and benefiting from food industry experience that Mark Passerelli has brought with him.”

The menu is a four week cycle and there is always freshly baked bread, soup for starter, a main course with a vegetarian option, jacket potatoes and salads.

All four schools replaced plastic flight trays with china plates and bowls and the children noticed the difference immediately.

Downside Primary headteacher, Karen Hooker, said: “The school dinner changes have been remarkable at Downside, we have improved the dining conditions and the children are really enjoying the fresh, nutritious food that they are being served daily.”

The schools made the decision to freeze the cost of a school meal at £1.85 and have found that the numbers of pupils choosing to have school meals has risen.

Brian Herbert added: “The biggest change we made was to the ingredients. We greatly increased the variety of them.

“We have had an amazing response from the children; they are trying new things and loving it.

“We have had really positive feedback parents as well, with parents saying that when the children come home now they are always full and telling them about the new foods they have tried.”

The trial for the new dinners began this term.

Downside Primary headteacher, Karen Hooker, said: “The school dinner changes have been remarkable at Downside, we have improved the dining conditions and the children are really enjoying the fresh, nutritious food that they are being served daily.”

Debbie Bosher, Headteacher of Beech Hill Primary, said: “The whole new school meals experience at Beech Hill is proving very popular with pupils and staff as menus and delivery meet the needs of the school community.”