“A good kitchen may not be the only ingredient for great school food, but it’s a crucial part of the recipe”

Lee-VInes1For any school serving great school meals, there are always a number of factors at play. Enthusiastic headteachers, passionate cooks, supportive staff, engaged parents… The list goes on. There are also several important non-human elements which can make all the difference. As well as fresh, high quality ingredients, the kitchen facilities themselves can have a huge impact on school food provision.

With the School Food Plan now in place, the spotlight is firmly on school meals. As increasing numbers of parents take an active interest in the meals offered to their children at school, school food is becoming more and more visible. Worryingly though, many school cooks are having to cope with outdated facilities and old, unreliable equipment. This makes their jobs even more challenging, and often holds them back from producing the types of meals that they would like to.

No matter how brilliant school cooks are, they can only do as much as their kitchen facilities will allow. The introduction of the School Food Plan represents an excellent opportunity to shake up current school meal menus and get pupils interested in school food, so it’s more important than ever that schools have the facilities to do this.

It’s amazing how much new kitchen facilities can improve school meals and increase take-up. My personal experience of working with Scawby Academy to update their school kitchen shows just what a difference it can make. With a new, modern kitchen and high quality catering equipment, the school catering service was transformed, with the quality and freshness of meals going up as a result of the more efficient catering equipment and up to date facilities. The school cook, Sharon, has even managed to engage pupils with cooking, and has set up a school cooking club in her own time, utilising the new facilities further.

A key element of the School Food Plan is encouraging schools to increase school meal uptake and offer additional catering for breakfast clubs. This, combined with the fact that many schools are likely to be accepting higher pupil numbers over the next few years, means it would be a mistake for schools to ignore tired, outdated kitchens. With catering equipment likely to come under increased use as a result of these changes, it’s vital that schools invest in their kitchen facilities, ready to embrace this new age of school food.

Lee Vines runs the catering infrastructure solutions group, PKL, and is guest blogging for us as part of our State of the Nation’s School Kitchens campaign.

You might also be interested in Lee’s blog: 8 Point Plan for Schools – a response to the School Food Plan.

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