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School fights back in dinners wars

Jamie Oliver might be one of the nation's favourite TV chefs, but he is definitely off the Christmas card list as far as Cardiff schools' kitchen staff are concerned.

"The Jamie Oliver effect has been phenomenal," Sue Eakers, head of the schools' catering service in Cardiff, told a group of parents at Llysfaen primary school. "I've seen people in the kitchens in tears, telling me 'everyone thinks we just serve junk'. We're here tonight to give you some confidence about the food your children are getting."

Parents were invited to sample some of the typical dishes that make up meals in the city's primary schools - "low in sugar, salt and fat, and providing the right balance using high-quality ingredients" - and despite some tough questioning about crisps in the lunchtime snack bags and the size of portions for older children, most seemed happy.

Take-up of school dinners has fallen since Jamie Oliver's TV campaign. The council declined to say by how much, but is keen to emphasise that "Jamie's ways are our ways".

One mother glad to see fresh fruit on the menu was dentist Jude Davies.

"I've been quite impressed by that promotion, and by their website (see below) which gives a lot of information about the food."

Sian Melhuish said the food range had exceeded her expectations. "Lots of pasta, salads, peppers and more vegetables than I expected - grated carrot with orange segments was nice."

And there wasn't a Turkey Twizzler to be had.

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