Ask our chief executive, Judy, why she wanted this job and she’ll tell you a big part of it came from her own experiences as a parent. She wanted her children to be able to eat well, but she also remembers how hard it can be to speak up when you’re not happy – or when you’ve got a good idea but you’re not sure how to turn it into action. Do other parents feel the same? Who should you raise issues with at school? What if no one will help?
I hear the same concerns in my work to help parents get involved with improving food at their children’s schools. Often, they’ve never been asked for their opinion, and aren’t sure how to get their voices heard. But the more they take part and the more they question, the better lunchtimes get. What’s really interesting is that parents are incredibly good at suggesting solutions that will work. You’re keen to roll up your sleeves, and great at getting other parents to support what you’re doing.
Your views of the food at your child’s school have never been more important. Your influence can be very powerful in demanding that every child has a good experience at lunchtime. And this is make or break stuff – we know that how children feel about lunch can often determine how they feel about their entire day at school.
So, here are my top picks of questions to ask if you’re looking at a school for your child. They’ll help you find out how your school’s catering works so that you can get yourself more involved:
• Do you cook hot meals from scratch in your own kitchens?
• Where will I find your menus?
• Can I come in and try a meal?
• How do pupils choose what to eat?
• How much is a school meal?
• Can my child have seconds?
• Do you run any special offers?
• Do you have a cooking club?
• Do you have Healthy Schools Status?
If your child’s already at school, here’s when you know you need to ask more questions:
• Your child says the lunch queue’s too long or that they can never get a seat
• Your child says certain food options are regularly running out before he/she gets to the front of the queue
• Your child keeps asking for a packed lunch instead, or for money to go out at lunchtime
• Your child says they’re hungry in the afternoons
• Your child doesn’t want to go into the canteen at all
Watch a video we’ve made of the fantastic work being done by Hatfield Woodhouse Primary School, led by a group of parents.
Lisette works with parents at many schools to help them get more involved with school food, and is a trainer for our Let’s Get Cooking programme. If you and parents at your school would like to do more, she’d love to hear from you. Email Lisette.