Back to school September 2020?
Going back to school and work will be very different this autumn and not everyone will have the same school lunch experience. It is clear that schools are risk assessing in different ways for food provision. I really feel for those who are struggling to sort out the food provision in the face of so much difficulty. As a previous Food for Life Quality Advisor for the Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) I’m thinking of all those wonderful schools who went the extra mile for their students, producing innovative meals from home grown veg to local suppliers. They had noodle bars, great pizza, wraps, pots of fresh dips, veg and fruit.
What will school food provision look like this year?
Fast forward to today at a time of crisis, some head teachers are asking parents to send packed lunches with the children, some are offering a cold packed lunch to eat in the classrooms, or staggered meals over 3 hours, so lunch at 11.30am – 2.30pm, others are offering packed lunches, hot meals and the option of bringing a lunch into school. So most permutations are likely to be covered throughout the UK, depending on the school. The majority of schools have really worked on their lunchtime offering for hot meals over the last few years, a sit down hot meal has so many advantages to the younger student, from dexterity – using a knife and fork, getting the food to the table without throwing it across the floor, communication skills – talking with the lunchtime assistants when choosing their food. However, needs must and if your school meals are not being provided, or are not suitable for your child for whatever reason it looks increasingly like many will require an insulated lunch box for home made lunches at least for the start of the year.
School kitchen logistics.
Where schools have a decent sized kitchen, it’s not quite so tricky, but the smaller kitchens present really significant difficulties for cooks and kitchen assistants. I know lots have been marking up the floor to enable more coherent social distancing and everyone is doing their best to plan a cohesive Covid 19 strategy. Some schools are also extending their kitchens by converting what are not currently used as food rooms by re-equipping with prep tables elsewhere, which is a cheaper alternative to other types of reconfiguring, but does need to be agreed with the environmental health. It’s also clear that the added costs of staffing for extended sittings and prep is likely to be increased with the different requirements and also allergens along with all the usual food safety that has to be covered off in the safest possible manner. It’s not going to be easy.
Food choices and options to keep hunger at bay.
If you are a parent and the provision at school means your child needs to take a packed lunch it does NOT have to be “sandwiches” everyday, neither should it be boring. Healthy choices can be made. There are so many good options available to give your child a nutrition boost in the day, from pasta salads, or wraps with salad, raw or roasted veg, cheese, potato salad, raw carrot, dips, Spanish tortilla, pizza, sprouted mung beans, bean salad (canned beans), falafel, pitta and finish with yogurt, fresh and dried fruit, fruit salad, oat biscuits, or wholegrain crackers.
Avoid any nuts as most schools prohibit them due to those suffering from allergies (check any grain bar snacks’ ingredients) Also add a drinking bottle of fresh cold water to the lunch bag and a small freezer block for keeping everything cold – schools are after all very warm and warm salad wraps are not very palatable and quickly become a food safety issue. I like to keep lunchbox ingredients ready and made up in the fridge which we then treat as a deli counter, adding what we fancy, queuing in an orderly fashion in the morning! Our own salad bar!