For many parents, memories of school lunches conjur up images of unappetising stodge eaten in a chaotic dining hall.
But for several international schools around the world, lunch has had a makeover, with a new emphasis on healthy menus and teaching good etiquette and social skills at the table.
One, in Dubai, has even hired six-times Michelin starred British chef Gary Rhodes to ensure lunch is a highlight of the day for students.
Rhodes recently spent time at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park (DBS JP) planning menus, creating dishes and speaking with students about healthy attitudes to eating. All food on the new menu is fresh, seasonal and locally sourced where possible, with no additives. The meals are also designed to appeal to young tastebuds with swede, parsnip and carrot grated into cottage pie, for example, to give children vitamins while creating a dish they’ll enjoy. “Something we feel very strongly about is educating children about good healthy food. We have to eat, so let’s do it well,” said Rhodes. And the children are still able to look forward to dessert. “They do need that little touch of sugar, it gives children strength. But where possible we use natural sugars such as a little bit of honey,” explained the chef. Clive Pierrepont, director of communications at the Taaleem group of schools, to which DBS JP belongs, said: “The new menu is going very well. Children who have never eaten fish before are now tucking in to Gary’s fishcakes and pies.”
The new style lunchtime is an opportunity to develop social skills too, with the children dining together in groups on small communal tables. "Table manners, etiquette and social skills are not a priority in many schools. We believe that they should be an integral part of the learning process" Clive Pierrepont, spokesman for Dubai British School Jumeirah Park “Making time to share an enjoyable, healthy meal and use it as an opportunity for socialising is a really important skill that we need to teach our kids,” said Mr Pierrepont. “Table manners, etiquette and social skills are not a priority in many schools. We believe that they should be an integral part of the learning process, along with an ethos of healthy eating.”