Fran Graves, Catering General Manager at Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate (QE), discusses the ways in which schools are fuelling pupils’ education with healthy food.
The importance of food in education is clearer than ever with 46% of teachers in a recent survey conducted by Kellogg’s saying that children being hungry is a leading cause of difficulties to teach the curriculum in the classroom. Since a further 26% of teachers said they have seen children fall asleep due to lack of food or drink and numerous studies conclude eating a healthy, nutritious school meal lowers the likelihood of developmental impairments, it’s become one of the main reasons the government offers free meals to reception and key stage one.
So, it’s no wonder that so many schools have begun investing heavily in their school’s meals and nutrition education. For example, the menu created by the multi award-winning catering team at Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate (QE), is healthy, mouth-watering, varied, and caters for all dietary requirements. Our team run themed weeks and international days to encourage trying new foods while having fun, with firm student favourites including the Chinese New Year Feast and the Great British Pie Week. Going a step further, we also have a Student Food Council that meets regularly with the catering team to provide their ideas and feedback and to ensure the food served remains popular with the whole QE community.
At QE, we focus on creating nutritious and exciting meals and snacks to ensure our students are getting the correct fuel they need to support them in their learning. Each half term we offer a new three- week menu and a new light bite menu to keep things fresh. Our catering team are dedicated to contributing to the healthy eating and lifestyles of our students so that we can maximise their potential and improve their wellbeing.
Schools are crucial to addressing the UK’s childhood obesity problem by teaching practical cooking skills and encouraging healthy eating. This is often done through food technology and topic lessons. At QE, 14 practical food technology classes happen per week encompassing every student in years 6 to 8, plus those that choose it as an option in year 9. In addition, cookery lessons are taught within the personal development course for Years 10 to 11 as part of an initiative to promote independence and to prepare the students for further education and beyond.
Our team host a wide range of educational extra-curricular activities for the whole school from their gardening Growing Club to our oversubscribed practical cooking and baking clubs. It’s also important for us to keep an open-door policy for year groups and subject teachers to be able to use the skills of our Food Development Chef, James Brown, as well as our facilities to plan and deliver lessons that support their topics such as Greek Food when learning about Ancient Greece, or healthy snack workshops for our sports students.
Schools like QE are increasingly offering breakfast clubs as many parents struggle for childcare, but these clubs also offer a great start to the day for many students as the children eat a nutritional breakfast together with their friends. My colleague, Justine Smith, runs our Early Risers breakfast club which serves toast, cereal, fruit, and yoghurt from 7.30am to ensure that students who need it do not lose out on effective learning through hunger. With 69% of teachers concluding that a breakfast club has had a positive impact on their ability to teach their class in a study conducted by Kellogg’s, it is really important that schools across the country offer whatever they can to fuel the education of our next generation.