This year’s International School Meals Day takes place on Thursday 9th March to raise awareness of the importance of teaching children about healthy eating and different cultures.

A whole school approach

It’s important the catering team works in conjunction with the school to make the most of International School Meals Day. Sam Ward, Trust Catering Lead at The Academy for Character and Excellence (ACE), a trust of eight schools, based in Devon, says “The day presents a perfect opportunity to bring learning to life with a themed lunch tailored to any curriculum subjects which may already be happening. A whole school approach is always the best way to maximise awareness.”

At ACE, taster tables are set up on the day so children have the chance to try a variety of global flavours and leave comments, without replacing their usual chosen meal. Sam says “We’ve added many items to the menu this way after their feedback – Bobotie, a South African dish, was a particular favourite.”

On the day, cooking activities are held which create opportunities for learning valuable skills alongside the curriculum. At
ACE, students are divided into groups, each taking a different country and learn to cook a traditional dish from their country. For example:
Argentina – empañadas de verdure
Brazil – vegetarian Feijoada
America – veggie corn dogs Canada – Canadian maple butter tarts

Sam says “We involve both parents and pupils together in workshops. We find this is really effective as both learn new skills and they are hearing the same messages around healthy eating.”

Celebrating healthy, tasty food

For James Taylor, executive chef, Chefs in Schools, International School Meals Day offers scope to celebrate healthy, tasty food from around the globe at the two schools he works at – Harrington Hill and Sir Thomas Abney, primary schools in London. “I see it as a chance to showcase the cultural diversity in my school kitchens and to introduce the schools to new dishes. Our kitchens are culturally diverse so it’s easy for us to create an exciting worldly menu. If your kitchen is less diverse, then research a variety of global dishes you can use in the menu,” he says.

Examples of dishes include pakoras, samosas, Nigerian jollof chicken stew, corn on the cob, fried plantain, as well as meat or vegetable patties.

Advance notice of the day is sent via email to all staff including menu ideas and any relevant links to interesting articles. “This approach gets everyone interested, makes everyone included and in turn, the staff pass their enthusiasm onto the children.”

The special day can be used to bring food education into the classrooms. James suggests a food class with a difference as it involves no cooking, just tasting. “This is an easy lesson for International School Meals Day as it can be done in any classroom with no equipment. It gets students thinking about the sense of tasting.”

The first part entails tasting ten ingredients, naming each one and deciding which taste receptor it fits, whether sweet, salty, sour, bitter or umami and ranking them in order of preference.

“I was surprised that the most popular was sour,” he added. “The second part is tasting flavour pairings. I make different pairings to taste with carrot such as ginger and coriander, as well as pairings to taste with strawberries – dark chocolate, tarragon and basil.
The lesson gives me an insight into what kind of tastes and flavour combinations students enjoy, as well as giving them the opportunity to try new ingredients and flavour combinations,” he says.

Box out : Want to take part? Get inspired with a few of our suggested activities

• Introduce an International Menu Day – incorporate different types of global cuisine

• Plan food tasting sessions or other fun food activities

• Introduce cooking activities with an international theme

• Host a workshop on healthy eating

• Go on a trip to a farm, supermarket or restaurant