It’s National School Meals Week (3 to 7 November) and Hampshire’s children, returning to school this week after the half term holiday, have a new school lunch menu to enjoy.
Popular favourites of macaroni cheese or roast chicken being joined by newcomers: beef curry and sweet and sour quorn and a new dessert of apple cake.
Served up with vegetables or salad sourced from local south coast growers, Hampshire families can be assured that school meals are healthy, tasty and good value for money, with the price of a hot, two-course meal frozen, by Hampshire County Council, at £2 for the sixth year in a row.
The County Council’s catering team ‘HC3S’ is now serving a million meals a month to the county’s school pupils, with take-up having risen by 20,000 meals, to over 60,000 meals eaten every school day, since the start of the Autumn Term 2014. The number of pupils enjoying a hot meal across the whole age-range within primary schools (infants and juniors) is now at a record level.
Councillor Peter Edgar, Executive Member for Education at Hampshire County Council, said: “Enjoying a hot school meal plays an important role in the development of healthy eating habits among children, which can be the key to children maintaining a healthy weight.”
“The school meals service provides meals that both taste good and are nutritionally balanced, working closely with schools, pupils and parents to create varied menus. HC3S continues to keep to the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group’s recommendations to remove over 70 additives and colourings that could affect children’s behaviour.”
The dramatic rise in school meals being provided follows the introduction of Government policy to offer all key stage one pupils (age 4 – 7 years) a free school meal. In Hampshire this has already resulted in an 80 per cent take-up of the free school meals offer after just a few weeks.
Councillor Edgar, added: “In Hampshire, between schools and the County Council, we have coped well with the introduction of free school meals for children attending infant school. Staff in schools and across the County Council worked with contractors to pull out all the stops to ensure work to school kitchen facilities to increase capacity was completed on time – working late into the evenings where necessary.
“The staff at HC3S have been doing a fantastic job alongside our schools, to ensure all meals are dished up on time. To be delivering a million meals a month in 450 infant, junior and primary schools is no mean feat. It has been a huge undertaking, but one that we carefully planned for, acting swiftly to ensure schools were prepared. This is a superb start to the school year, and I would like to extend my praise and gratitude to all those who have worked so hard to make it happen.”
HC3S recently received the ‘Good Pig’ award from Compassion in World Farming for the use of pork and pork products that meet strict animal welfare criteria. The accolade recognises HC3S’s commitment to ensuring they only purchase higher-welfare pork, exclusively using pigs that are reared in better living conditions so that they have a longer and healthier lifespan.
This is not the first time that HC3S has been recognised by Compassion in World Farming. In 2011, HC3S was awarded the ‘Good Chicken’ award, and in 2008 the service picked up a ‘Good Egg’ award, for its use of local free-range eggs in Hampshire school meals.