Pasta beats faster food any day

21st March 2003 at 00:00
I was shocked by your article on nutrition (The Issue, Friday, February 21). I come from Italy, and my aunt is a chef in an Italian school for three to six-year-olds. She is given a detailed list of everything she can and cannot use for cooking, and all the procedures she must follow when working in the kitchen.

I reckon British cooks would go mad with all the rules she has to follow.

Fridges and the work environment have to be at specific temperatures, which must be checked and recorded every day. No unauthorised people are allowed in the kitchen, and there is a strict dress code. She has to cook exactly what's on the menu. This is set on a monthly rota, copies of which are given to parents so they can monitor what their children eat for lunch.

Every day, each child has pasta, rice or vegetable soup followed by meat, fish or cheese, with cooked, fresh vegetables. There is always fresh bread (in Italy, they still go to the baker's; they don't eat the type of bread we use here for sandwiches). The food must be cooked simply; elaborate sauces and fats are banned. Butter is out; only olive oil is allowed, and in moderation. Afterwards, children have fresh seasonal fruit or yoghurt.

They drink water if they are thirsty. For the afternoon break, they have fruit, yoghurt or a slice of fresh bread with jam.

When I read about fried food, sweets, desserts, chocolate and the like being given to students, I am not surprised to see overweight children walking on the streets.

And it's not just the children. I'm a PGCE student and my colleagues don't eat any differently. But if you go to the refectories of some colleges you will understand why so many students and teachers choose to eat a sandwich and a packet of crisps instead of the rubbish that is available to them.

When I worked in a baguette bar making sandwiches for students, they all complained about the disgusting food served in the dining halls, and how expensive it was.

It is sad to realise that England is a country with no food culture. On the other hand, how can you bring up the people of tomorrow by feeding them sweets, prepared vegetables, and food full of preservatives washed down with fizzy drinks? We need to educate ourselves and our children about healthy food, at home and at school. I hope, one day, someone who counts will realise the urgency of this situation.

Sara Ferro is a PGCE student and resident tutor at an infant and junior school in Kent

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