Shadow Health Secretary Sharon Hodgson discovered the vital ingredients for a healthy childhood eating when she visited a South Tyneside school.
Ridgeway Primary Academy in South Shields has transformed its lunchtime menu, and the MP learned how food with thought had allowed pupils to play an important part in deciding the meals they are served.
The Washington and Sunderland West MP learnt how it was the school’s partnership with national catering specialist Sodexo which saw a group of pupils recruited to give feedback on food choices.
The Year 5 and 6 pupils, known under the programme as ‘Agents for Change’, made recommendations that were put into effect.
Mrs Hodgson’s visit came about through her role as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for school food.
It was arranged by Rosemary Molinari, Sodexo’s marketing manager for schools, who is also a public health practitioner and founding member of the parliamentary group.
Mrs Hodgson said “It was a pleasure to meet the pupils at Ridgeway Primary Academy. Together with the team at Sodexo, they have created a vibrant school meal offer which the children love.
“It is so important to engage children from a young age in the importance of eating a balanced meal every day, and this is being done in an enjoyable and collaborative way with the school and the children.”
Michael McCarthy, director at Ridgeway Primary Academy, added: “We needed to find ways to interest children more in their food and to involve them in decisions surrounding what they were eating.
“Sodexo’s approach has led us to redesign our dining hall in line with our pupils’ views and needs, and has helped us rethink the way that we provide nutritious and balanced meals.”
The firm began working at the school in July and pupils have helped to decide the colour scheme and look of the dining hall.
The hall was then transformed over the summer to create a new dining hall at the school in Park Avenue.
To ensure the lunches continue to meet the needs and expectations of pupils they continue to be consulted - acting as catering manager Paula Lumsden’s eyes and ears in the dining hall and feeding back comments on dishes and helping develop a menu which appeals to all pupils.
They also get to see behind the scenes and learn how school meals are created and developed.