The school meals service in Sunderland has been given some fresh, new ingredients.
New menus with a traditional flavour are being launched for the new academic year with 20 schools also benefitting over the summer in the latest stage of a continuing kitchen equipment investment programme in the city.
The new multi-choice menus are the result of ongoing consultation with children and school cooks, and months of research into new products and food trends, to see how best to meet changing tastes and demands.
The menus will offer a range of traditional favourites such as roast dinners and fish and chips, alongside meals such as curries and pasta dishes to cater for all tastes.
Vegetarian options are always also available while children can also have ‘lighter bites’ such as Paninis and jacket potatoes with special dietary needs also being catered for.
The menus meet all national school food standards and have achieved the national Food for Life award which means that all meals are made with healthy, fresh, tasty, seasonal produce which has been sustainably and ethically sourced.
Sunderland City Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, Councillor Amy Wilson said:
“Everyone recognises the positive impact a healthy and nutritious school meal can have on children’s health and well-being and their performance in the classroom.
“This makes it really important that we continue to invest in our school meals service.
“Previous investment in kitchen infrastructure means that we are now able to focus on providing modern, energy efficient equipment that continues to improve the quality of the service we can provide to children and their families, and helps us to develop an exciting new menu to encourage even more people to eat school meals.”
Helping to ensure the quality of the meal on the plate, 20 schools have benefitted from a £197,000 investment programme over the summer to install new equipment.
New combination ovens and bain-marie counters allows food to be cooked more quickly in school kitchens, and kept hotter for longer and displayed better while children choose what to eat.
This latest round of investment builds on previous funding for similar equipment in 40 schools over the last few years, and adds to a ten year investment in school meals in Sunderland totalling £3.7m.
As well as new menus and equipment, there is also a new look for the catering staff.
A team of school cooks were asked to help choose a new uniform for the workforce of 400, and the traditional kitchen whites have been replaced with a modern and eye catching purple and black uniform.
Sunderland City Council Catering Services Manager, Keith Miles said:
“A lot of hard work goes into developing new menus each year. A great deal of time is spent finding out what the children like and trying out new ideas before deciding on a final menu.
“This year’s menu reflects the children’s love of traditional, hearty favourites but also highlights the fact that a growing number of children prefer lighter bites at lunchtime. We are also seeing an increase in the amount of salads and fruit we serve.
“All this is made possible by continued council investment in school kitchens and equipment, so we can deliver the best possible services we can and provide our children with fresh, healthy, nutritious and tasty food.”
One of the latest schools to receive council investment in school kitchens is St Anne’s RC Primary School in Pennywell
Headteacher Mrs Catherine Harrison said:
“At St Anne’s we have always strived to provide a healthy balanced lunch for all our children.
“The new kitchen facilities and the wide variety of meals our kitchen staff can now provide has taken school meals to another level.
“I must say that school dinners have changed and improved so much since I was a pupil here back in the 1970s, and I really hope more children and families will take up the service again.”
Schools meals are served daily to more than 13,000 pupils at schools across the city, with that number increasing year on year.
Enjoying their lunch at St Anne’s (from a menu which included; Jumbo fish fingers, vegetable enchiladas with sunshine rice, filled jacket potatoes, oaty crunch biscuits and fresh fruit salad ) Lexi, 9, said: “The school meals they give us here are really nice, and the staff are also very helpful and friendly.”
Amelia, 9, said:
“The food is very nice and there is a good choice, and my favourite drink is milk.”