A fantastic line-up of VIP guests including the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, the Sheriff of Nottingham, local MPs and councillors have been enjoying school meals with local pupils this week as part of National School Meals Week.

The guests have been invited by Nottingham Catering to meet Nottingham City Council’s Catering Teams, have a school meal with the children and see how mealtimes are help learning, socialisation and an understanding of environmental issues.      

The City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children & Schools, Councillor Cheryl Barnard, visited Rufford Primary School and said: “All the food looks really delicious! It’s good to see the children enjoying their school meal in a friendly social atmosphere where seeing each other eating the same thing encourages them to try something new too. Having a hot meal makes a massive difference and sets the children up for the afternoon so they can be more attentive. I think the Catering Team do a great job and relate to the children very well.”

‘Together we make a difference’ is the theme of this year’s National School Meals Week, and with the COP27 conference currently taking place, action on climate change is high on the agenda.

Children have said what they are doing to make a difference to the environment, including:

“I pick up litter and put it in to the recycling bins.”

“I always turn off lights at home if no one is in it or leave the room.”

“I always switch off my computer and game system when I have finished with it to save energy.”

“I don’t leave the tap running whilst I am brushing my teeth.”

Children enjoyed a very sociable school meal with MP for Nottingham South Lilian Greenwood at The Glapton Academy. The children were very conversational and asked her all sorts of questions to find out about Lilian’s work as an MP and also wanted to know if she goes swimming and about her favourite book and film. Lilian asked what their hopes are for the future and was given an impromptu South African song the children learnt last term.

Lilian said: “It was brilliant to visit The Glapton Academy to celebrate National School Meals Week with the pupils and the incredibly dedicated catering team, from Nottingham City Council.

“I was delighted to hear directly from the children how much they enjoyed their school meals and to see so many clean plates at the end of a very well-behaved lunchtime! I very much enjoyed my tasty chicken korma followed by strawberry jam cupcake. 

“With the latest data from the Food Foundation showing that 26% of households with children experienced food insecurity in September 2022 alone, children being able to access free or affordable meals at their schools is more important than ever. I would encourage every family eligible for Free School Meals to take up the offer so that their children can receive the delicious healthy meals, freshly prepared by the fantastic team in the school kitchen, for free during this cost-of-living crisis.”

The Lord Mayor of Nottingham Cllr Wendy Smith paid a visit to Oak Field School and Specialist Sports College. She said: “I hadn’t realised that school meals were so delicious now! I’d be happy to come here for my lunch every day. With everything costing so much now, free school meals offer an ideal way for pupils to get a hot healthy meal and save some money. It was great to meet the Catering Team too and see the pride they take in providing such wonderful meals.”

The Sheriff of Nottingham, Cllr Nicola Heaton, visited Claremont Primary School. The children were very excited to meet her at lunch time and had lots of questions for her. She also enjoyed a school meal and talked to the Catering Team there about the excellent work they do in freshly preparing and serving 400 school meals every day. She said: “The Catering Team seem so positive about the job they are doing and are friendly with the children. It’s amazing they can feed so many children in such a short space of time. The school meals are tasty, healthy and bring the children together as well as lifting a weight off parents’ shoulders.”

Catherine Underwood, Corporate Director for People at the council, visited Welbeck Primary School. She said: “I’m delighted to see the school meals team in action at the heart of the school. I’ve talked with the children about their enjoyment of the meals and how they’ve been encouraged to try new things. Social eating and healthy eating plays an important role in wellbeing. The Catering Team clearly enjoy their work and work together to ensure that the children have a range of nutritional meals.”

Immediate past Chair of LACA (the School Food People) Jacquie Blake came for a school meal. Jacquie said: “I’d like to say a big thank you to Anita and her team, for making me so welcome, at Southwold Primary School.

“The lunch was excellent and the pupils I chatted to told me how much they enjoy their school lunches. 

“It was great to be back and see the hard work and dedication of the team, in producing hot and healthy meals that clearly are so vitally important with the current cost of living challenges. 

“National School Meals Week aimed to highlight “together we make a difference” and Nottingham Catering Teams are certainly doing just that, with their engagement with pupils and supporting the move towards CN28.”

Lee Kimberley, Head of Nottingham Catering said: “As school caterers we are committed to CN28, and this is very important to us. We are working to reduce our environmental impact by reducing food miles and food waste, improving energy efficiency, avoiding non-recyclable packaging, promoting reusable cups and containers and taking part in carbon offsetting activities. This is all without compromising our focus on the quality of our meals to children.”

Frank Jordan, Corporate Director Resident Services at the council went to visit Mellers Primary School. He said: “It was a privilege to take part in the School Meals Week.

“School meals form an important part of the school day for children. They not only ensure every child gets a nutritious meal, but also they help children and families understand the importance of preparing and eating healthy food.

“Staff in the catering teams do a fantastic job covering both of these areas.”

The Catering Team and the children were delighted to host this special guest and the children explained how they are active in making a difference with their Eco Team, for example they have been monitoring how each class reuses paper, recycles it, composts fruit scraps and works to reduce classroom energy use.

The Eco Team meets on a Monday after school and every half term awards a trophy to the class with the highest scores on taking climate action. The trophy is made out of recycled materials, of course, and the children in the winning class get an extra play time as a reward.

Teacher Sarah Maltby-Sells, who runs the Eco Team meetings, said: “The children are passionate about the environment and really care about protecting it. We go with the children’s ideas on what they would like to do and the Eco Team really empowers them and gives them confidence. I’m looking forward to recruiting children from all years of the school and getting the whole school involved.”

The Eco Team has also run competitions on making something out of things that would otherwise be thrown away; for example, one of the classes created bird feeders out of plastic waste as well as taking part in litter picking and gardening, planting trees and flowers and making Eco Team badges using milk bottle tops. The school has their milk delivered in glass bottles as part of the drive to reduce plastic use. 

Mellers Primary School is successfully using a worm bin for food scraps from their school meals catering to create a rich compost and has plans to become a plastic free school.