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School dinners - which cause of reduction in takeup?

(22 Posts)
WendyWeber Thu 12-Jul-07 13:42:20

This was "covered" (huh) on the World at One today - "Has Jamie Oliver's attempt to improve the quality of school dinners actually put the meals service at risk?"

There was a whole Food Programme about it not long ago, and the consensus then was that a lot of parents stopped paying for school dinners on the back of the Jamie Oliver series because the food was so awful. In primary schools now there are good schemes going on to get the kids interested in trying and eating new healthy foods, uptake is improving and this will filter through to the secondaries in a few years, providing they get enough money to keep them going in the meantime.

On WATO today the school meals spokesperson said that the initial reduction was due to the Jamie Oliver prog, but the newswoman responded "so the children don't like the new healthy foods?" and the spokesperson just let it go instead of patiently and patronisingly repeating what she'd actually said (which would have been good to hear ).

How much do these newsy people get paid for getting the wrong end of the stick like this?

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 13:58:22

School meals are still potentially crap. The Richmond Borough is one of the wealthiest and best performing LEA's in the country. And even they won't consider school meals that are anything better than the (new) minimum legal standard.

I met with the head teacher at DDs school to discuss this and I would have gotten mire satisfaction from talking to a brick wall.

What a pity. I would like DD to have nutritious school dinners. But, as it stands, they have yet to convince me of the "nutritious" bit and so I'm inclined to send packed lunches (I have until January to decide).

It is not JAmie Oliver's fault that schools serve crap. It is, however, to his credit that we the parent now know about it. If schools want to increase the uptake, then they need to provide quality food. This was one of my points to the head teacher. She said she needed to know who wanted the dinners before they could say what they would be, to which I responded "But people want to know what is in them before they sign up to them". But, she wouldn't acknowledge that she had the cause and effect backwards.

Oh, it makes me want to open a shop in the heart of Twickenham offer nutritious packed lunches that busy parents could buy on the way to school. Or perhaps the shop should deliver to the schools?

CountessDracula Thu 12-Jul-07 14:00:22

not ALL richmond schools I think you'll find eleusis
Seriously, did you talk to them and get no response? VERY odd.

So could you not approach the potential new provider of food, get an average weekly menu, circulate it and say "IF we went with this provider would you sign up"

WendyWeber Thu 12-Jul-07 14:04:26

Oh, I know they are, eleusis - DS2's school is run by a private company and the prices are outrageous (eg 20p for 2 slices of toast from an economy white loaf) although the food is better than it was and they have at least taken away all the vending machines selling sweets and pop.

But Martha Kearney (or whoever it was) just missed the point completely!!!!

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 14:34:20

Only your DD's school, CD. Everyone else in the Borough has just signed up to a new contract which provides main course and warm desserts prepared off site and reheated on site. Oh yummy. Actually, I'm so so bothered about the frozen and reheating process but I do want to know what they made the meal out of in the first place. However, THAT ionformation has not been provided. Hmmmmm... I wonder why?

What I really want to know is how much of the meat will be processed. (I would like none!) Meat is fine with me, but I'd like it in a chicken breast, not a hot dog or other disgusting refined product that isn't fit for human (or canine) consumption. Oh, and they are going to provide fresh bread... un huh... is that whole meal with soya and linseed bits, or crapy white bread because if crappy white bread is on offer, DD will stop wanting the soya linsees variety she now eats at home.

What really annoys me is the Head Teacher was not interested in what was best for the kids. But, rather (I think), she just wanted someone else (i.e. the borouhg) to sort it out for her.


eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 14:38:02

Oh why did I even open this thread. I'm really honked off about the whole thing.

They sent home a questionnaire asking parents if they preferred sandwiches or hot meals and didn't ask a single question about the nutritional value of the meals. But, the head teacher says we've been consulted.

Oh, and because the Kingston borough serves sandwiches then it's all okay. YEah? Perhaps Kingston is the standard by which we ought to judge ourselves?!?!?!

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 14:51:48

Should anyone reading this have a child in a Richmond School and want to know more about the new contract, you might want to contact:

Contact details
David Neaves,

Head of Operational Services,
Environment Directorate

Telephone: 020 8891 7358

saggermakersknockturnalley Thu 12-Jul-07 15:14:52

You're proper wound up about this aren't you eleusis? Although I can't say I blame you.

We've recently moved to new school buildings - the old school (over 120 years old) had a fab kitchen where the cook made all the lunches fresh and with decent ingredients. The new school has a tiny kitchen and they're serving cook/chill meals mass produced 3 miles up the road. Progress eh?

School meal uptake has fallen. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out why.

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 17:09:50

Yes,I am. But not nearly as wound up as I am about missing the parent-teacher conference which was meant to take place over the phone this afternoon.

I had to talk her into the phone conference because of the infexible day times on offer. Anyway, she agreed to call me at 4:15. I waited.... waited.... And missed her call at 4:38. Tried to call her right back (5-10 minutes later). She didn't leave a phone number so I called the school and left a message which she no doubt will not get before tomorrow. SHE is the one who called late. And why could she not say "if you get this message in the next ten minutes you can call me on..."

I do actually like the school on the whole, but they really could implement a bit more flexibility and communication with parents.

I've gone off on such a tangent, I might have to go start another thread...

CountessDracula Thu 12-Jul-07 19:35:39

Maybe you could call the office at dd's school and talk to them

They had a miniscule take-up of school dinners before the new thingy recently, now I think about 70 or 80% take them (as do the teachers and the head I believe!) If you could get some evidence from them maybe it could help persuade your school?

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 19:38:10

I went to the head armed with information on your school. She told me it was a really big job and took four years to get the school dinner up and running. I told her this was not what I had heard. And she pretty much told me she was sorry I had been misled.

foxinsocks Thu 12-Jul-07 19:46:14

think they have opted out of the contract here too now but I cannot for the life of me remember who they have gone with (it's not the same people as E Sheen).

singersgirl Thu 12-Jul-07 20:07:19

Well, it certainly didn't take 4 years. The money was raised in the school year 2005-2006, September to July, and the kitchen re-build took place last summer holidays. The kitchen was up and running from September 2006.

We were lucky in that we had not previously opted for some of the 'free' Scolarest kitchen equipment which tied schools into a longer contract, so were able to resign it unilaterally.

The uptake has been great - but then we are mostly Jamie Oliver-loving middle-class parents who wean our offspring on olives and asparagus. I heard that the new borough caterers were providing food at Hampton Court Flower Show and that the meal was terrible, and massively late.

foxinsocks Thu 12-Jul-07 20:13:25

mm I think it's taken a bit longer here - not 4 years yet, but it will have taken longer than a year for sure. The new caterers (the school have chosen) look OK though and we'll be getting much fresher food (and they have a committment to using local produce).

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 20:43:12

Does the company name have an x in it? Starts with S maybe? My aging memory is failing me.

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 20:46:36

But all I'm asking for is 4:45!!!!

The HT once said to me "I work 10 hour days" expecting a sigh of sympathy I think. But, instead, I said "You are preaching to the choir, you know." I thinkI enjoyed that more than she did.

foxinsocks Thu 12-Jul-07 20:47:30

yes, the borough has gone with sodexho (sp?). The children's school have opted out though.

eleusis Thu 12-Jul-07 20:49:44

I wonder where I could get a list of schools that opted out (so I can waive it at the school gate).

amidaiwish Thu 12-Jul-07 21:16:46

isn't there a company that does supply packed lunches, delivered to the school in time for lunch, properly chilled etc.?
i saw it advertised in families on thames magazine last year, thought it was a fab idea. run by two local mums and was in lots of richmond borough schools.
it obviously hasn't taken off...

nooka Thu 12-Jul-07 22:13:24

My kid's school uses Sodexho I think, and although the menus look OK, apparently the servings are small and they often run out of the things the children actually want to eat (ds told me only five children in his class can ever eat the baked potato option for example). So we are back on pack lunches, along with lots of other parents which I could really do without buying and preparing. I don't know why second helping aren't an option - they definately were when I was at school (although to be honest te meals were so disgusting it was a rare child that had seconds!).

eleusis Fri 13-Jul-07 07:46:08

Oh, Amida, that is exactly what I would like.

sinclair Mon 16-Jul-07 18:25:32

Just came on to say sorry you had such a negative response from your head Eleusis.

This was mentioned at our Parents' AGM last week and our head said that one reason they couldn't opt out of the boro (London but not Richmond) contract was that the school would have to fund the provision of free school meals which sounded odd to me. Must investigate (any governors know how FSM are funded?)

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