School dinners have won a taste of success after proving to have the right recipe to win an award.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s School Meals Service has landed a North East and Scotland Region award for its innovative approach to help ensure school children receive a healthy, balanced diet.
Jubilant council catering staff received first prize in the Innovation category at the Annual Local Authority Catering Awards for Excellence, held recently in County Durham.
The 209-strong school catering team won the award for its colour-coded menu options in the town’s 31 primary schools, to help pupils make healthy choices at meal times.
Four different colours are used to label food: carbohydrates (blue), proteins (red), vegetables (green) and deserts (pink).
Even the serving spoons are colour-coded.
Lynne Bell, facilities management officer for Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “The colour coding is a great way of getting young people to ensure they can choose a plate of food which has a balance of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables. Staff came up with the idea for the colour-coded scheme and we also consulted with children, parents and school staff who all thought it was a brilliant idea.
“Obesity levels in Hartlepool are higher than the national average and this initiative will help children to have a balanced diet and a healthier lifestyle.”
Councillor Marjorie James, chairwoman of the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee, commented: “The school meals service staff are the unsung heroes of this council.
“They do a fantastic job serving up about 6,000 meals a day in primary schools and I am delighted that they have been recognised for their good work.
“It is so important that children get a balanced diet and the colour-coded scheme will help their understanding of what represents a healthy meal.”
“Hartlepool has one of the highest take-ups of school meals in the country and this is down to the excellent team we have working for us, serving up a wide range of top quality, healthy food day in day out.”
The team received an engraved glass award and framed certificate for winning the category.
More than 40% of children in Hartlepool are overweight or obese by the time they reach Year 6, according to figures released by the National Child Measurement Programme in January, while a further 25.9% are obese by age 11, totalling 41.7%.
In reception, which children join at age four, 13.7% were overweight last year and a further 11.6% were obese.