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Makeover for school menus

THE greasy chip and fizzy drink generation are to be weaned off their unhealthy diet by tasty, larger dishes that must meet stringent nutritional national standards.

In a ground-breaking move, the inspectorate will check the quality of school dinners, and while there will be no outright bans, an emphasis on healthy choices and persuasion will reflect the Scottish Exec-utive response to Hungry for Success, the report of the expert panel on school meals.

More cash for each local authority, running to pound;56 million over three years, will subsidise the first Scottish attack on the poor standard of food consumed by pupils. A further pound;7 million will pay for free fruit for all P1 and P2 children.

Education and health ministers on Wednesday, unusually for government, approved all the recommendations of the expert panel chaired by Michael O'Neill, education director in North Lanarkshire. This suggested it would cost an extra pound;24.1 million a year to implement all the changes.

Ministers have now agreed to inject an extra pound;23.7 million a year by 2006 after phasing improvements over the next three years, beginning with targets for primary and special schools.

Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, said pupils could expect to have more say about services and would see fewer queues, more choice, larger portions, better labelling and better dining halls. Swipe card systems could eliminate queues altogether.

Mr O'Neill believed the social side of lunches was a vital element in persuading young people to eat and drink more sensibly.

Guidance to caterers will highlight the importance of fruit, vegetables, bread and pasta and the need to reduce high levels of salt, sugar and fat.

Schools will no longer be able to advertise or promote chocolate and fizzy drinks.

THE IDEAL DIET

* Bread daily but garlic bread no more than twice a week.

* Rice and pasta at least once a week.

* Chips, roasts, and other high fat potato products such as waffles no more than twice a week in primaries.

* Lunch to have two portions of fruit and veg and one portion of meat, fish or an alternative.

* Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk available every day.

* Processed meat such as pies and hamburgers no more than once a week.

* No fizzy drinks as part of the lunch service in primaries.

* No confectionery sold at service points.

* Fresh, chilled water freely available in dining halls.

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