School chef urges canteens to excite pupils

Tony Mulgrew, school catering manager for Ravenscliffe High School in Halifax
Tony Mulgrew, school catering manager for Ravenscliffe High School in Halifax
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A YORKSHIRE SCHOOL chef who helped to develop new healthy food standards has urged his fellow cooks to make their canteen menus exciting to help pupils eat healthily .

Tony Mulgrew, the catering manager at Ravenscliffe High School, in Halifax, was part of an expert panel involved in drawing up the new guidelines which came into effect this term.

They set out minimum requirements for all food served in schools to ensure children eat healthy food. This includes there being one or more portions of vegetables or salad as an accompaniment every day, having at least three different fruits, and three vegetables each week. It also says no more than two items of food on the menu each week can be deep fried and no more than two portions of food can include pastry.

The special school held an event to mark the launch of the new standards. Mr Mulgrew said: “For me it’s the little things that can make a big difference. A salad can be pretty bland if all you’re offering is a few lettuce leaves, tomatoes and a bit of grated carrot. So why not different beans and low-fat dressings for flavour, and vibrant peppers for colour.

“It transforms the dish and makes it both tastier and more visually appealing.”

The school’s head teacher Martin Moorman said: “Our school has a great team of staff who have collectively committed their time and energy, backed by significant financial investment from the school, to offering our students the best possible lunchtime and food experience. We welcome the introduction of the new standards as they have helped to cement our passion for healthy, sustainably sourced and tasty food. We believe academic achievement is directly linked to the quality of food that our students eat, so it is really important that they have the very best possible mealtime experience.

“Another key thing is to establish a quality local supply chain for fresh meat and produce. Not all schools are as blessed as we are at Ravenscliffe in that regard, but I can guarantee there will be local farmers and the like who are happy to help, often at a fantastic price.”

Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for Adults, Health and Social Care, Coun Ann McAllister, said: “We welcome the new Food Standards as they support our aim in Calderdale to make healthy, tasty and nutritious meals the norm for everyone to enjoy.

“We want the best for our children and young people, and the standards will serve up high-quality, nutritious food in schools. This will help to keep pupils mentally and physically well and prevent disease.

Schools minister David Laws said: “These new food standards will ensure that nutritious, tasty meals can be enjoyed by children who choose a school lunch.

“Providing healthy school food boosts children’s health and education. It gives them the fuel they need to concentrate inside and outside the classroom and establishes healthy eating habits for life.”

However the Local Government Association has questioned why the standards are not being applied to academies which opened between 2010 and 2014.

It raised concern that while many academy chains have voluntarily signed up to the guidelines, those academies that choose not to are free to serve children unlimited fatty or fried foods, or install vending machines selling items such as crisps, chocolate and sugar-laden fizzy drinks.

The LGA said it believed more than two million pupils attend schools not covered by the new standards.