It’s food, glorious food for Nottinghamshire schools who have been able to shape their own school menus for the first time this year.
For example, decisions were made at Student Voice forums, school assemblies, whole school voting, and with opportunities for pupils to taste new recipes as well.
Nottinghamshire County Council’s school meals team have given all 290 primary schools in the county a choice of meals to choose from.
A total in the region of 6.5m meals were served in primary schools in the county during 2016-17.
And for the first time, there are starters on the menu, reflecting changing tastes among school pupils.
Every day, the school meals team feeds 48,000 children across the county with locally sourced food – with schools given a choice each week of seven starter dishes, 30 main dishes and 15 puddings.
Councillor John Cottee, Chairman of the Communities and Place Committee, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “We have a close working relationship with our schools and wanted to give them a greater say in their school menu. This new system means that we can include more of the food choices which teachers, parents and carers and especially children themselves want.
“The new menu also means that we could change a food choice if requested by a school later in the year if they wanted. It is all about giving each school a greater say in their menus.”
For example, a school might be able to change a beef pie dish to a beef taco dish if it transpired that the beef pie dish was not as popular as they hoped part way through the year.
Nottinghamshire County Council’s school meals team builds up its food trends intelligence each year through a series of food forums in schools with children, teachers, parents and carers and governors.
These change reflect a changing palette among today’s children who seem to be opting for healthier ingredients with an emphasis on savoury ingredients.
There was a call for different varieties of fish so the menu reflects this with fish pie, smoked fish, tuna and sweetcorn pasta, salmon en croute, breaded fish and fish fingers. Among the desserts is pear sponge, which was proposed as an idea during a food forum.
The menus also carry detailed allergen information for the 14 main allergens. Approximately 5% of pupils enjoying school meals have intolerances which this information allows parents and pupils to make informed choices about what their child eats at lunch time.
What the schools say:
Ly Toom, Head teacher at Abbey Road Primary School, in West Bridgford, said: “The children loved being involved in choosing their menu. Representatives from all classes took the responsibility very seriously, considering their friends’ views as well as their own, and they certainly showed that they have very strong opinions when it comes to food! Our children know how important it is to have a balanced diet and the new menu offered them a lot of choice. They were very keen to try some of the new starters… as well as making sure their favourite desserts were still served too!”