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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March 2005, 10:26 GMT
NI school caterers challenge chef
Jamie Oliver
Even Jamie Oliver struggled to get children to like meals
Star chef Jamie Oliver's new show is painting school dinners in a bad light, Northern Ireland's caterers have said.

The current Channel 4 series follows the restaurateur as he replaces all processed foods at a London school, with freshly cooked meals.

He has said government funding for meals should rise from 37p a day per pupil to 50p.

Much of the processed food served to children is nutritionless "rubbish", he said.

However, school caterers insist all Northern Ireland schools cook from fresh and do not rely as heavily on convenience foods as the schools featured in the programme.

They have now invited the TV chef to visit their schools.

The Northern Ireland School Caterers Association (NISCA) said while the show's aims were positive, there were concerns that it did not reflect well on the services provided.

It said its staff were experts in providing a well-balanced meal through careful "menu planning and effective procurement".

Fried food
NISCA says healthy eating is the responsibility of all

Janet McAllister, chair of NISCA, said: "We would be somewhat concerned that parents in Northern Ireland would think we would have the same dependency on convenience foods that Jamie has seen in his schools so far."

She said there were no "turkey twizzlers" on Northern Ireland's school dinner menus.

There were some convenience foods on the menus, such as fish fingers, burgers and chicken nuggets, but they were served alongside stews, curries, casseroles and soups, said Ms McAllister.

"Healthy eating is the responsibility of us all," she said.

Northern Ireland's five education boards were responsible for school dinners, with just a few contract caterers within the voluntary sector, she added.

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