Introducing children back into school

Caterers are rising to the back-to-school challenge of pupils who are now used to having food and drink when they want, whenever they want.

How can foodservice operators encourage children to get back into the routine of eating at set times at school, after the freedom of potential grazing when they choose at home? Caterers are rising to the challenge, writes Sheila Eggleston.

On 8th March 2021, children returned to school, many with the fanfare of balloons and streamers awaiting them – much to the relief of families and school authorities. While welcome, this environment is far from the pre-COVID norm. Up until then in 2020, only vulnerable and key worker children were allowed to attend schools, but now the doors are open to all across England, with Scotland following suit after the Easter holidays.

As explained by Stephen Forster, national chair for Lead Association for Caterers in Education (LACA), in an interview with Public Sector Catering magazine at the end of the previous lockdown in September: “No one could have anticipated the magnitude of the Coronavirus crisis, which seems to have derailed everything that we have seen in our normal way of life, let alone the impact on our services we provide to children and families.”

Social distancing will likely continue for some time, affecting the way food is served, and it is important to ensure that parents are reassured that the food served in schools is safe

With schools tasked to find ways to allow their young people to eat safely, this means the introduction of further rules. At the forefront – avoiding queues, social distancing in dining rooms or classrooms where food is delivered, and restricting children moving around to avoid year group bubbles mixing. However, on the bright side, socially distanced outdoor dining is a possibility in the summer term

LACA’s Marching Back to School Campaign

LACA continues to be proactive in helping schools to get back on track. In autumn 2020, it launched its Hot’ober campaign to get school children eating hot food again as many caterers had turned to cold food for those children attending e.g., sandwiches to help with stock levels and fluctuating numbers.

Now, it has launched its Marching Back to School campaign, which runs along similar lines, to encourage children back into eating hot meals and help facilitate the return of hot lunches as soon as everyone feels it’s safe, and also efficient, to so do. For free resources on the campaign, visit: www.thegreatschoollunch.co.uk/resources