Food, glorious food – Improving the lunchtime experience

Resource: Case study Age: Primary
Food, glorious food – Improving the lunchtime experience

Collaton St Mary CE VA Primary School is located on a relatively new site on the outskirts of Paignton, Devon, overlooking the local parish church and farmland. The foundation stone of the school was laid in 2001 and since being housed in a new building there has been an increase in pupil numbers. The school has 213 children on its roll, and it is the first school in Torbay to have achieved Silver.

What they've achieved

Collaton St Mary has placed great importance on improving school meals and enhancing the children’s lunchtime experience. It works in partnership with the school kitchen to make lunchtimes calm and unhurried, and this has become an integral part of school life.

To achieve a positive dining experience, the school ensures that

  • Staff mingle with the children, which encourages good quality conversation and strengthens positive relationships.
  • Children with packed lunches can sit next to friends with school dinners.
  • Certain children become designated lunchtime helpers. They wear aprons and hats donated by the AGA Shop, which makes them proud of their status.
  • The school cook runs the SNAG. Meal time assistants are also on the SNAG committee and are therefore involved in developments.
  • There is a termly review, which considers how to further improve the dining environment. The school cook also attends extended school meetings and has a good relationship with the head, healthy school co-ordinator and staff.

What they say

“I am commited to ensuring the children receive constant healthy messages and are served healthy nutritional food that is tasty and appealing." says Kitchen Manager Sam Ward, "I am proud that we source local produce have direct contact with our own local suppliers and enjoy the community relationship we have established. My team and I enjoy cooking freshly prepared dishes and gain great satisfaction from knowing where our food comes from, it is lovely to see the children relishing the food on offer. We also feel very much part of the childrens education, as food, health and the environment play an important part of the curriculum.”

The difference it makes

The school cook takes children in groups for themed events, which are attended by local chefs when possible. The themed events link to the national curriculum and are wide ranging. Last Christmas the children made stuffing balls, cranberry and bread sauce for their Christmas lunch. And, during Indian week, the school transformed the dining hall into an Indian restaurant.

School governor Pam Wigfield is also very much involved in the school’s food culture, having held a breadmaking masterclass with the school cook, and a healthy packed lunch session.

Collaton St Mary actively fosters good communication between home and the school, encouraging parents to be involved in their children’s learning. The school hopes to raise self-esteem, and encourage independence and self confidence among the children, parents, staff and the wider community.

The school is also keen to enter local competitions, be a part of national themed days and run parent/children cookery workshops. It is working hard to develop links with Occombe farm to support food and growing projects and is looking at setting up a 'schools produce stall' at the local farmers’ market with other FFLP schools.

The Food for Life Partnership is a network of schools and communities across England committed to transforming food culture. Together we are revolutionising school meals, reconnecting children and young people with where their food comes from, and inspiring families to grow and cook food.

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