The ‘My Best School Dinner’ competition shows an appetite for school meals in Somerset

The Children’s Food Trust is working with Somerset County Council to help schools in the region increase the number of children having school meals. This work is part of the Department for Education and Children’s Food Trust programme to increase school meal take up in junior & secondary schools as well as academies.

Having seen the dedication and belief in improving the health and wellbeing of children in Somerset and the way school meals are held central to this ambition, it was a real honour for us to be invited down to Somerset to judge the ‘My Best School Dinner’ competition.

The competition challenged children from across the county to create their ideal school meal with the winning entries being incorporated in to Somerset’s school menu cycle for the coming year. The aim was to get children interested in the food they eat and grow excitement about the fact that some children would also get to eat the very meals they invented.

There was a fantastic response to the competition with more than 300 entries – 11 dishes made the final which was hosted at Frogmary Green Farm in South Petherton. The finalists were aged between 6 and 14 years and were both superbly competent and enthusiastic cooks. They were extremely eager to get started and produced their meals in ample time before impressing the owners of the training kitchen with their tidying up skills too!

Judging was an extremely difficult job with each and every dish being both tasty and attractively presented. The three winners were Emily Morrison with her ‘All in one roast’ – beautifully presented within a large Yorkshire pudding, Alfie Blackwell whose ‘Lasagne Surprise’ gave a new twist to an old favourite utilising wraps in place of pasta and Saffron Beake who wowed the judges with her beautifully presented and delicious tomato and basil tart.

What was immediately obvious when judging this was that the competition was a fantastic way to engage children in what they eat. Hundreds of children got involved and for some it was the first time they’d really taken time to consider the components of a healthy meal together with actually creating their own favourite dish. Of course it also has the added benefit of potentially increasing the number of children wanting to try the winner’s dishes, especially if it was created by their class mates. I’m sure all three dishes will prove to be popular additions to the new menu cycles.
Getting children excited about and interested in school food is what our Increasing School Meal Take Up programme is all about. We’re helping junior and secondary schools, pupil referral units and academies to increase the number of pupils eating school meals.

The benefits of this are clear, it will mean children have a healthy, nutritious meal at lunch and as a result are likely to learn better in the afternoon. Obviously there’s also a financial benefit to schools – with increased take-up making the provision more economically viable and raising additional money that can be put back in to the education of the children. Our programme has been shown to increase take-up by at least 5%.

Our unique support package is available to all local authorities in the South East, South West and East of England. Those local authorities who sign up will receive specialist training so they can deliver the Children’s Food Trust ‘Small Step Improvement programme’, Food Dudes ‘Dining Room Experience’ and a specific marketing plan developed by Elygra Marketing to schools in their area.

To find out more about the programme please visit us here or call 0114 2996930.

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