Special school menus checked for new standards

School meals will have to meet new standards
School meals will have to meet new standards

MEALS provided at special schools in West Sussex have been given the Children’s Food Trust stamp of approval.

Herons Dale Primary School in Shoreham is one of 11 in the county to be guaranteed menus meet new school food standards.

The trust’s new menu checking service gives schools and their caterers an easy way to ensure food provided complies with new legal requirements, which come into force on January 1.

John Figgins, catering services manager at West Sussex County Council, said: “We wanted our menus to be accredited by a professional, well-regarded organisation that was also involved in devising the new standards.

“Our schools have a high number of vulnerable pupils with complex dietary issues. A big focus for the schools is that all meals should be of high quality and cater for a wide range of dietary requirements, while at the same time meeting all the new food-based standards. The accreditation process gives us that peace of mind.”

The ‘menu checked’ logo will appear from the start of the January term and any revisions will be checked throughout the year.

Laura Whiting, Children’s Food Trust nutritionist, said: “Our menu checking service gives schools, early years settings and their caterers confidence they are compliant with the national school food standards or voluntary early years guidelines, recommended healthier cooking practices and portion size guidance, resulting in menus that provide the energy and nutrients children and young people need to grow and do well.

“Through the service our expert nutritionists help reassure schools and early years settings that they are meeting their legal obligations to provide healthy food to children in their care.

“The team uses their extensive experience of working with schools and early years settings and their caterers to check menus and recommend improvements and to support them in offering the best service possible.”

The new standards arose out of the School Food Plan, an independent review which found schools considered existing standards difficult to understand and use, particularly the nutritional analysis of recipes and menus.

It was recommended the Government create a clearer set of food-based standards, accompanied by practical guidance that provided caterers with a framework on which to build interesting, creative and nutritionally-balanced menus. The standards also needed to be less time consuming and cheaper to implement than the existing standards.

The Children’s Food Trust advised the expert panel on school food standards and pilot tested the new standards with schools and caterers before they were launched. The trust also produced the voluntary food and drink guidelines for early years settings on behalf of the Department for Education.