Thursday 10th March 2022, marks the tenth anniversary of International Schools Meals Day. Everyone remembers school dinners (some more fondly than others!). This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating School Meals’, and is an opportunity for students to share ideas, stories and experiences from their past, present or future.
International School Meals Day, launched in 2013, aimed to:
- raise awareness of the importance of the nutritional quality of school meal programs worldwide
- emphasise the connection between healthy eating, education and better learning
- connect children around the world to foster healthy eating habits and promote well-being in schools
- share success stories of school meal programs around the globe
- highlight research activities in school meal programs around the globe
- raise awareness of the hunger and poverty issues being addressed through school feeding programmes (programs)
Access to healthy and nutritious school meals are critical to students’ wellbeing and readiness to learn, especially for those families on a lower income. During the past few years, with increasing reliance on food banks and with many families hit hard by the pandemic, school meals have become increasingly important, and for many children the sad reality is that this is the only full meal they will eat during the day.
This issue was widely publicised during the pandemic when Manchester United Forward, Marcus Rashford, launched his petition urging the British Government to extend free school meals during school holidays. This successful campaign has seen the Government provide an additional £170million of funding.
Here in Hertfordshire, Herts Catering Limited (HCL) work closely with schools and with Herts County Council, providing school meals to 430 of our schools. The dedicated catering professionals at HCL use fresh local and seasonal ingredients to ensure children are enjoying a well-balanced meal as part of their day. They have also been instrumental in tackling ‘Holiday Hunger’ in collaboration with their key suppliers.
School meals have come a long way over the past few years. With rising levels of childhood obesity, input from celebrities such as Rashford and Oliver, as well as less glamorous additions through acts of parliament, have helped to ensure that school meals are healthy and balanced and help to educate children and young people about healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Major innovations such as the 2014 Food Information Regulations, which allowed for free school meals for key stage one pupils have made an enormous difference, and more recent initiatives such as ‘eat them to defeat them’ are building on strong foundations.
If you would like to get involved and connect with communities across the globe on International School Meals Day 2023, Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- have an International Menu Day
- run food taster (tasting) sessions or other fun food activities
- host cooking activities with an international theme
- provide career and skills activities for senior pupils and students
- plan visits to farms, supermarkets or shops, community gardens or allotments to learn about growing, producing and selling food
- plan visits to local religious establishments or community groups that would be willing to talk about food in relation to their faith or activities
- if off-site visits aren’t an option, invite people from the above settings to come and talk about what they do
- hold fundraising activities for charities to support school feeding programmes in developing countries
- incorporate global citizenship, food culture and healthy eating into classroom learning
- run seminars, workshops or events related to food traditions, ceremonies or celebrations
- connect across the globe – connect classrooms and twin your school through established international education links
- highlight food innovations, provided to schools
- research and publish information related to school foods and the benefits of healthy eating.
We’d also like to take the opportunity today to say a big thank you to the school meals staff and midday supervisors who make such an important difference to the lives of children and young people across Hertfordshire… perhaps the children in your school could thank them today too!