Where pupils are happy to eat their greens
If Jamie Oliver was to come for a school meal at Christ College, Brecon, he’ll see pupils eating green vegetables without even having to pay them, as he did in his series ‘Jamie’s school dinners’.
The daily allocation of food per pupils at the Brecon school is higher than what Jamie Oliver had to stick to but as he quickly came to realise budget is far from being the sole obstacle to getting children to eat healthily. While the Naked Chef managed to come up with nutritious meals for 37p, the major part of his project showed him struggling just to try and make the pupils taste his food. When he finally managed to serve them a plate full of nutritious and wholesome ingredients, most of it ended up in the bin.
Jamie Oliver’s project clearly shows that making pupils eat healthily is not only down to budget but more importantly about re-educating the pupils’ palates and in some instances changing their whole attitude towards food. The series ended on a positive note with children finally starting to enjoy the chef’s recipes which had dramatic consequences in terms of concentration and behaviour.
Christ College has adopted a simple formula of linking food with active participation, selection, supervision and fun which helps to make their pupils more aware of healthy eating.
“What really makes the difference is that the pupils have a say in the food they eat and the caterers offer a wide selection of food every day,” says headmaster, Phillip Jones.
The menus are decided by the catering manager and his assistant, but there is a strong input from the school food committee composed of pupils from each year of the school. The committee meets several times each term with the catering manager to decide on the menus. Pupils are offered a wide choice ranging from fresh fish and vegetables to burgers and chips. Surprisingly, the most popular option is not one that would be expected after watching the Channel Four programme.
Phillip Jones said, “It would be too much to hope that pupils would always choose the healthier options. I have noticed that boys and girls have become much more discriminating in what they eat. For example, there are the highly physically active individuals who consume lots of carbohydrates – and burn them off, whilst those who are much more dietary conscious eat a lot of fish and salads. I think pupils who do choose the healthy option do so as a consequence of the education they receive and the awareness they have of the importance of taking on board appropriate fuel for the nature of the lives they lead.”
Ensuring that Christ College pupils do not become attracted to a daily intake of fatty processed food, salt and additives does remain a challenge nonetheless.
Phillip Jones said, “There is always a member of staff on duty in the dining hall to eat with the pupils and check informally that they are eating appropriately.
“Boarding house staff and sanatorium staff are very closely tuned into the physical welfare of boys and girls, including those who eat inappropriately. Pupils are weighed regularly as part of the sanatorium monitoring programme. Close links between the sanatorium staff, teaching staff and school doctors mean that professional help can be made available in the rare instances where there is a problem.”
Pupils eat their meals in the school dining hall, which is a building dating from the 13th Century. It used to be the monks refectory at the time when the school was a monastery before the Reformation, making meal times that little bit different for pupils.
Regular ‘theme’ days with menus reflecting the national groups within the school incite children in tasting different food they wouldn’t have been used to such as Mexican, Chinese, German meals and so on.
Phillip Jones said, “Specialist Chefs are brought in by the Catering Company making such occasions always very popular.”
Christ College realise that meal times are more than just about food. Phillip Jones said, “Eating must be a moment of recreation and leisure, a convivial time shared with friends, a break from the hectic schedule of classrooms. I think we’ve achieved that here.”
View all press releases for Christ College Brecon