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Fruit bar kids kill the stodge

THE ABERDEEN tradition of the morning "rowie" followed by lunchtime chips is being swallowed up by healthier fare at Oldmachar Academy as the city's attack on bad diets begins to bite.

A unique agreement with the school meals service, run by the city council's direct services organisation (DSO), has allowed the Bridge of Don secondary to hand over the menu to teachers and catering staff.

It is the first time a city school has managed to break the blanket contract system that many home economics teachers argue runs counter to healthy eating. Now fresh fruit comes daily from a neighbouring Asda superstore and airline-style pre-packed lunch boxes can be ordered in advance with a range of healthy offerings.

A pilot project last year has been continued because of its success in changing what pupils eat in school and raising income as till sales rise in the cafeteria. Home baking is now pushing out the rowie - the flattened, buttered and salted morning roll, renowned throughout the north-east. It is joined on the exclusion list by chips, burgers and sausages in a bun.

Other popular but potentially damaging foods and drinks are on the hit list, although not all have been given the elbow.

Bacon rolls survive but without butter or margarine. "Kids don't like butter," Joe Leiper, Oldmachar's headteacher, said. Talking to pupils and responding to their opinions had been an important part of the initiative.

Mr Leiper said the pilot scheme had been underwritten by the council's health promotions department which put up a pound;1,000 guarantee. The school meals service had been anxious about a fall in till takings and cuts in staffing levels if chips were banned.

"The DSO anticipated they would make a loss by removing chips, burgers and morning rolls - but during the four-week pilot we made a profit by introducing pastas and Mediterranean-type food and hard selling to kids and parents," Mr Leiper said.

"By the time the fruit used to get to the school it was battered and bruised and left on the cafeteria shelves. We now have a fruit bar at the interval making lots of money selling grade A fruit."

Colin Milne, general manager of direct services, said he was "totally committed" to the project but was obliged by law to break even or make a profit. Food costs 5-10 per cent more at Oldmachar. "Our main concern is that this is a particularly affluent area and children are used to eating things like pasta. In less affluent areas we would want to go gently and not impose things on people."

An Italian day held last week brought in record takings of more than pound;900. "Food cost has gone up but we have proved we can make a profit and create a good ambience," Mr Leiper said.


* Provide for healthy choices, including fresh fruit and vegetables, in contract agreements.

* Choice for pupils, with different types of bread available. Fried food should be limited.

* Healthy options should apply to entire meals and not just individual items. Vegetables and fruit should not be costed separately but included in the overall cost.

* Contracts monitored closely for menu design, use of standard recipes, food preparation, cooking methods, portion control, and marketing and feedback.

* Tuck shops must have competitively priced, healthy options.

* Vending machines raise money but are criticised for selling only unhealthy snacks and soft drinks. Advertising on machines need not promote sugary, fizzy drinks. Mineral water products should be available as an alternative.

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