FORGET lumpy custard and soggy cabbage – school dinners are now more like dining at a top-class restaurant.
Experienced chef Steve Cross is whipping up a feast of gourmet delights for children in Leigh Park.
On the menu – which changes with the seasons – are dishes such as vegetable noodle soup with homemade bread, chicken in a rich barbecue sauce with dauphinoise potatoes and fine beans, and Chinese fruit jelly with lime cream.
Now the efforts of Park Community School to transform its school lunches have seen it be awarded a bronze award from the Food for Life programme, which is run by the Soil Association and aims to educate children about where food comes from.
The school stopped using a local authority-led catering outlet and moved the catering in-house.
Pupils are given the chance to visit a farm, cook dishes and grow fruit and vegetables.
Youngsters and parents have their say on what they want to see on the school’s menu.
Head chef Steve said: ‘All I want to see is our students eating healthy, nutritious food with a better understanding of where their food comes from.
‘We like to keep up with current food trends and what is popular to the students outside the school day, while at the same time ensuring these trends fall in line with the school’s healthy eating approach.’
The school has made a policy to only use farm-assured meats and free range eggs.
No fish is served from the Marine Conservation Society list, which aims to protect vulnerable species.
Children are certainly noticing the difference.
Cain Holmes, in Year 9, said: ‘I look forward to seeing what’s on for lunch each day.
‘I know it’ll always be something I’ll enjoy.’
Bailey Young, in Year 7, said: ‘The sweet and sour chicken is amazing, I feel like I’m getting a real treat but at school and even better, I know that it’ll be good for me.’
Connor Poor, in Year 8, said: ‘Park Diner is my favourite day, I love the burger and chips that is served up like I’m in a takeaway bar, and Fish Friday is definitely a close second.’