Food education pilot reaping rewards

Tuesday November 17th 2015

Penicuik High

Being chosen to spearhead a government education pilot about food in schools is already paying dividends for Penicuik High School cluster.

The project, which is part of the national Better Eating, Better Learning scheme, coupled with a council wide secondary school meals initiative has seen a rise in the number of pupils enjoying healthy lunches in Penicuik High’s canteen.

Canteen supervisor Debbie Cochrane says: “Numbers of pupils eating here is definitely up in the last two months.”

It is easy to see why. New offers, available across all Midlothian secondary schools, mean pupils can tuck into homemade soup with fresh bread or a main meal followed by a healthy fruit pot and drink for just £2.
“A lot of my friends who used to go out at lunchtimes are now staying in and saying things like ‘oh great, it’s Tuesday – curry day’ ,” says Charlotte O’Farrell, S6, who sits on the Better Eating, Better Learning school committee along with fellow S6 pupil, Harry Donnelly.

​​Pupils, canteen staff, teachers, the Home Economics department run by Mandy Mitchelmore, and the cluster primary schools are all involved in the Better Eating, Better Learning programme, which is due to run for three years.

Home Economics and the school catering team drew up a survey, which Harry and Charlotte then used to question 60 pupils about their views on school meals. The results have helped shape a change in the menu with the aforementioned curry days, a wok day on Thursdays and a traditional meal on Wednesdays.

Meanwhile, the pupils in all the schools involved, are encouraged to be more aware of the amount of salt, fats and sugar they are eating and the need to eat a balance of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fruits and vegetable.

Mandy Mitchelmore says of Home Economics’ (HE) involvement. “We have done a massive amount of work in HE and the Food For Thought Project (cooking with the primaries). This, along with the work done on developing a kitchen garden in our school, healthy eating and cooker skills, has been fantastic.”

Two pupils have also made it to the final of the Scottish Product Competition organised by Education Scotland. The pupils will have to ‘pitch’ their product, Wild Fajitas, in a Dragon’s Den type competition at the food supplier, Brakes in Motherwell on 23 November.
The canteen is already looking at introducing a salad bar and pupils are looking forward to dining al fresco in the school gardens in the summer.

Councillor Derek Rosie, the cabinet member with responsibility for school meals, said: “Research shows that making healthy food choices impacts on all aspects of our lives, from giving us more energy, to protecting us from illnesses and helping us concentrate at school.

“This evidence based programme is a fantastic example of everyone in the Penicuik schools cluster pulling together to make meals healthy, fun and even more nutritious. Well done to everyone involved.”

Did you know you can get a main meal or sandwich, a healthy desert and a drink for just £2 in our secondary school meal deals?

Pic shows clockwise: Charlotte, Harry, Debbie and Mandy.

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