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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November 2004, 13:04 GMT
'Retro style' for school dinners
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

Medway Community College/photographer Stuart Thomas
Pupils said they enjoyed the traditional meal [Photo: Stuart Thomas]
Pupils are being encouraged to eat traditional, 1960s-style school dinners, in an attempt to get them interested in healthy eating.

This week, lunch at Medway Community College in Kent features Lancashire hotpot, minced beef cobbler, diced swede and Wells pudding with custard.

The food is being prepared using fresh ingredients and herbs and there is a focus on reducing additives and salt.

The school wants to see if the 'eat-retro' scheme is financially viable.

'Best meal I've had'

Over 150 children and staff at the school are taking part in the project.

"I think it was quite nice, it was a much healthier option for lunch," said 13-year-old Leanne after her first traditional school dinner.

I feel a bit more energetic and a bit more raring to than when I've had a burger
Hannah, 12
"There was more veg and we had water to drink."

"I had meat, boiled cabbage and potatoes and for afters I had cake with custard," said Jamie, 13.

"I'd go for that again if it was out all the time - it was the best meal I've ever had."

"It was really nice - I was quite surprised how nice the beans were because I don't normally eat them," said Hannah, 12.

"I feel a bit more energetic and a bit more raring to go than when I've had a burger."

But Hannah believed some young people would take a lot of persuading to start eating healthily.

"There's still a challenge though to stop some people eating burgers and chips."

Wider research

The scheme at Medway Community College is being supported by the catering consultants Eatdot, which advises UK schools on menu provision, marketing and budgeting.

The initiative will be extensively researched to see if a market can be made for more healthy and balanced meals.

Marketing director Ed Bevan said the aim is to shift the balance from fast foods, such as pizza and chips, making up the majority of school dinner choices to traditional foods.

"Traditional school dinners were nutritionally well-balanced but bland," said Mr Bevan.

"We've re-invented the best of them with the help of a nutritionist to create a menu which we hope is healthy and exciting. Our goal is to encourage consumers to make a more wholesome choice in the future."

Commercial concerns

Head teacher Andrea Ferris said: "We want students to be more aware of what they are eating, and to encourage them to enjoy and have fun with a more balanced diet.

fresh food
The government wants to see more healthy choices in schools
"The eat retro project will give them a chance to try out traditional dishes, with a modern twist. We think it will be a great experience for them and encourage them to 'buy healthy' in the future."

But commercial realities also have a big part to play in the process.

"As always in schools, budgetary constraints often dictate what we can offer. The more popular snacks generate a greater income than the rarely chosen healthy and wholesome options," said Mrs Ferris.

"The challenge is therefore rather more complex than it might seem at first."




SEE ALSO
School meals 'must be healthier'
28 Oct 04 |  Education
Junk food advertising ban call
06 Sep 04 |  Education

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