Headteacher of Holy Trinity Primary school in Hackney, Yvonne Barnett, recently put it best when stating ‘to be prepared for learning, pupils need to be well-rested, well-fed and properly nourished."
Healthy meals and student diets should be at the forefront of a school’s priorities, and following on from the Government’s recent announcement on the strategy to tackle and reduce obesity rates, we’re looking at the importance of healthy eating in schools and the impact this has on a pupil’s ability to learn.
What are the current government regulations on healthy food in schools?
According to gov.uk, food served in schools and academies in England must meet the school food standards so that children can have healthy, balanced diets. The school food standards apply to all maintained schools and academies that were founded before 2010 and after June 2014.
They must provide high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables, bread and other cereals and potatoes. There cannot be drinks with added sugar and crisps, chocolate or sweets in school meals or vending machines. There also cannot be more than 2 portions of deep-fried, battered, or breaded food a week.
How to ensure pupils are provided with a healthy diet in schools
There are many ways in which to ensure students are provided with a healthy diet away from their home, including breakfast clubs, creating school recipe books, growing their own fruit and vegetables and inspiring children to want to make educated and well-balanced food decisions at school mealtimes.
As stated by the Education Authority, good nutrition is essential for children to grow properly, do their best in school and be healthy and happy in the future.
Schools must take a ‘whole school approach’ to the food and drink that is provided and consumed in school and develop children’s skills and knowledge about a healthy diet and lifestyle, inside and outside of school.
What are the benefits of pupils eating healthy food in school?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) note that kids learn better eating habits when schools provide healthy foods. Therefore, schools must do what they can to promote nutritious foods at mealtimes, as well as in tuck shops and vending machines. Kids who eat healthy foods during school lunchtime learn better lifelong eating habits and well equipped to learn.
As mentioned by The Atlantic in a recent report, economists set out to determine whether healthier school lunches affect student achievement as measured by test scores which led to an unexpected discovery: students at schools that hold a contract with a healthier school catering service perform somewhat better on state tests.
Furthermore, according to Learning LiftOff, other studies looked at the effects of nutrition on brain function. Unsurprisingly, deficiencies in iron and other vitamins can affect cognition, which is a problem for young learners.
Kids who don’t get enough iron may feel tired, dizzy, and eventually develop anaemia. Even before anaemia develops, symptoms may affect schoolwork. “A low iron level can cause decreased attention span, reduced alertness, and learning problems in children,” according to MedlinePlus. Good sources of iron include beans, pulses, meat, fish and spinach.
An important factor in providing nutrition in schools is the option for hot school meals, which allows schools to control the nutritional content of meals provided and ensure the nutrition regulations are adhered to, which can’t be monitored with packed school lunches.
Hot school meals protect the most vulnerable children eligible for free school meals against hunger and help safeguard pupils with allergies in the dining hall by regulating what goes into the meals provided and should always be encouraged over packed lunches.
How can cashless systems and pre-ordering contribute to healthy eating in schools?
CRB Cunningham’s cashless catering software allows schools to focus on and encourage a student’s healthier attitude to school mealtimes. The Fusion Online pre-order app allows pupils to pre-order their meals in advance, including before school with their parents, who can help them make educated and balanced food choices, ensuring their child is getting a nutritious meal during term time.
Furthermore, the cashless catering options of CRB Cunningham's mean parents can rest assured the money spent on their children’s school meals is being used correctly and not on junk food due to out-of-gate- spending.
Both these properties of CRBC’s software also contributes toward cutting down a huge amount of time wasted on queuing for school meals, meaning students have time to enjoy their lunches without worrying about having to miss a mealtime due to time constraints.
Missing meals during school hours can lead to poor performance, fatigue, and overall lack of productivity, and software such as CRBC’s prevent students from going hungry.
Are you thinking about making a change to your current food service? Get in touch with our team who will be happy to talk you through your solutions.
Useful resources for schools: