The theme for International School Meals Day this year, taking place on Thursday 9th March, is Our changing food – methods, menus and meals. In the run up to the day itself, Food for Life Scotland will be taking the opportunity to highlight the fantastic work being done by catering teams across Scotland to serve award winning meals that are good for pupils’ health, good for the environment and good for the local economy.
Anja Fulestad is the Head Cook at Croy Primary School in Highland. Highland Council is a proud holder of the Food for Life Served Here Bronze Award. Anja has had a busy year and was named as one of the first cohort of Food for Life Scotland Ambassadors in May 2022, a group recognised for their work to champion good food within their local community. She then went on to be awarded as Employee of the Year at the first ever Scottish School Food Awards in November 2022.
Anja is working hard to raise standards in school meals, and the recognition she has had this year shows the huge impact she is having on those around her.
Being a Food for Life Scotland Ambassador
Anja says being a Food for Life Scotland Ambassador made a huge difference. “As an ambassador I attended a series of workshops to discuss how we could build a better culture around food in schools. Each ambassador was then asked to propose a plan for change and positive action within their local authority.
“I decided to set up a growing project at my school. Pupils learnt to prepare seasonal dishes, developing their understanding of how food is grown and what’s in season throughout the year. They made smoothies in the summer, pumpkin soup at Halloween and mince pies for Christmas. It’s all about making menus more fun for the children and getting them to engage with the meals they are eating.
“One particular highlight was pressing apples from the school garden to make juice. The children were fascinated and got really into the activity. The ambassador programme gave me the confidence to move forward with these ideas and the Food for Life Scotland team were always on hand to offer advice.”
Changing how we think about food
Anja continues “I’ve really noticed that if students become more involved in the growing of ingredients and preparation of food, they are more likely to try eating new things. They realise the effort that goes into growing things and the variety that’s available, and they suddenly become more interested. That realisation that a seed can turn into a tomato or a courgette is something really magical.
“We need to educate children about food and open their eyes to how much fun cooking can be. I’ve also been experimenting with creating food sculptures. I’ll place fruit into the shape of an animal, or try fruit carving. And then suddenly there will be a queue at the fruit stand!
Testing new methods
“It’s important to try new things and see what works with your students. I’ve found that presentation of fruit and veg is everything. If you’re putting as much effort into the presentation of healthy options as you would into baking a cake, you’ll find you start to get somewhere. If things are laid out nicely, and with a sense of fun, the pupils will be drawn to this.
“We’re also planning some fun events around food. With all the positive experiences that come with eating well together, perceptions of food will start to change.”
Blog first published on Soil Association Scotland’s website.