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Healthier lunches mean healthier kids at Borough primary school

Healthy food consultant Janice Gibb - who works at Charles Dickens Primary School in The Borough - last week organised a conference for school cooks.

Charles Dickens Primary School
Charles Dickens Primary School

"School cooks are key to ensuring schoolchildren understand the importance of healthy eating and eat well every day at school," says Janice, who is the school business manager at Charles Dickens Primary School and school food trust ambassador for Southwark.

"Only then can we hope to bring about long-term improvements to their general health and reduce levels of obesity."

Simon Hughes MP gave the keynote speech at the conference which was held during the half-term break at St James's Primary School in Bermondsey.

"The council welcomes Janice's initiative in organising this conference – it will play an extremely important role in helping local school cooks get to grips with the requirements of the new nutritional guidelines so that the healthy initiative reaches all local schools," says Cllr Lisa Rajan, executive member for children's services and education.

"It will also give them a lot of support in sourcing food locally and sustainably, and making quality school dinners from scratch."

Janice, with the support of her headteacher, spearheaded a healthy eating campaign at Charles Dickens Primary School after a questionnaire she sent to parents to find out what their children ate at home indicated an abundance of chips and convenience foods.

She worked closely with the school cook to transform lunchtime menus at the school. Now children eat freshly-prepared, nutritionally-balanced meals sourced from local ingredients and cooked on the premises. Additives have been virtually phased out of their food and the children now enjoy learning how to grow fruit and vegetables that are used in their meals.

The school staff say that they have received positive feedback from parents, while the children's improved health means they use their asthma inhalers less and are more alert in afternoon lessons.

Janice said: "The children now eat a lot more school meals because they love trying new dishes and learning how to prepare nutritionally balanced meals. It's now up to schools to introduce children to healthy balanced meals and teach them how to cook and socialise as a unit during meals. This is our aim for all schools in Southwark."

The primary school in Lant Street has recently received planning permission for an "eco shelter" and garden on land to the west of the school buildings.

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