Remember my Healthy and Sustainable School Canteen?
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Our healthy and sustainable lunch orders got off to a flying start last Friday! It was an exciting morning. This is the first time our school has run a regular school canteen, so there was a nice buzz about the grounds as kids and parents came to order before the day began. All through the week we had been very clear with the kids that they had to give in their money and order before morning lines and most kids did exactly the right thing. One parent told me that her kids woke up and bounced out of bed shouting “It’s canteen day mum – I need to get myorder in before assembly!”
Our first school canteen menu item was Lovely Lebanese Bread Wraps. We had lots of parent volunteers on hand ready to chop up the ingredients and start rolling them. I had no idea how many kids would order. I arranged ingredients for 100 wraps but in the end needed half that. We had 44 orders in total – which considering the size of our school was about what my previous experience told me to expect.
One exciting element of our new school canteen is that we are not working against an existing culture of a junk food canteen. We are starting something new and developing a new food culture. We call ourselves a “Healthy Choices” school canteen because we only offer healthy options. If kids want to buy from the canteen they choose between two options that are equally good for them – and equally delicious. We want to support everything that is in the NSW School curriculum about healthy eating and sustainability. This means that not only are we packing out every item with vegetables, but we are also using recyclable packaging where possible and really thinking through the ethics of each decision we make when sourcing food.
If you are interested in starting a school canteen from scratch, here are some of the lessons we learned on Friday:
Our first school canteen had great feedback about the deliciousness of our food. Here is the recipe:
1 Wholemeal flatbread wrap (fresh from the bakery if possible – it makes them easier to roll)
Approximately 30g baby spinach leaves
Approximately 50g grated carrot
Approximately 50g sliced tomato
Approximately 50g sliced cucumber
EITHER 50g sliced ham
OR 70g grated cheese
Place ingredients inside bread and roll. Roll baking paper around wrap. Cut in half. Place in order bag.
My kids go to a pretty small, independent school. A while ago, older students at the school were agitating for a canteen. The school trialled a “Canteen Day” by outsourcing the preparation to a local cafe. After seeing the selection of burgers and wraps on offer (and their cost) I was pretty sure that we could serve healthier, cheaper food by doing it ourselves.
So I, along with a small group of mums, took on the challenge of trialling a few more School Lunch Order Days. The idea is pretty simple. We were determined to serve freshly prepared, healthy food. No packets or preservatives! Rather than buying items that we then sold on, we thought up a few meals that could be easily made on the day in the school’s kitchen. Knowing that we could never appeal to every child’s taste or every parent’s convenience, we offered one choice per day. First up – freshly made pumpkin soup and a roll. At $2.50 for a small serve and $4.50 for a large serve, it was a good deal for a winter lunch.
I wouldn’t say that the kids went wild over it but one large stock pot of soup was made and enjoyed with wholemeal bread rolls from a local bakery. Three mums were involved on the morning to pull it together and I think we can be proud of our efforts. Even within a small school or with only a small team, running a school lunch order day like this isn’t hard.
Here is the recipe for the soup, scaled down for a family. This recipe yields approximately 2.5 litres of soup.
A glug of olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 Jap Pumpkin – peeled, seeded and cut into large chunks (about 1kg of prepared chunks)
1 litre of chicken stock
In a large, heavy based saucepan, gently fry the onion, celery and garlic in oil until starting to go golden.
Add spices and fry for 1-2mins until fragrant.
Add potatoes, pumpkin and stock.
Bring to boil then simmer 20-30mins until pumpkin and potato soft.
Blitz in pot with a hand blender until smooth.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, some freshly chopped parsley or coriander and a bread roll.
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1. Roll up the sandwiches. Instead of cutting the bread into squares or triangles, put the topping over one slice of bread, then roll into a scroll. Hold together with a toothpick if you’re dedicated. If not, give it a squeeze and it’ll stay.
2. Sandwich kebabs. Thread the sandwich ingredients onto a wooden kebab stick.
3. Heart shaped food. Cheese is just so much more appealing when cut with a little cookie cutter. Sandwiches too!