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A week of celebrations is underway to highlight just how far school meals have come since the days of lukewarm liver and bacon and lumpy banana custard.

As part of National School Meals Week (3-7 November) a host of celebrity chefs are joining forces with schools cooks to promote the great school lunch. It comes just months after the launch of free school meals for 2.8 million primary school children and the introduction of cooking on the curriculum.

On Monday, the Deputy Prime Minister joined school children at Brasserie Blanc in Oxford, to get some top cooking tips from Raymond Blanc, before heading to a primary school in North London to cook up a storm with Lorraine Pascale.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“It’s a very simple truth that if you don’t give children a healthy, balanced meal at lunchtime, you can’t expect them to sit down, concentrate and learn well in the afternoon.

“That’s why I’m so proud of the work we’ve done in Government to put school food back on the agenda. We’ve introduced new food standards, cooking on the curriculum and free school meals, which can save families up to £400 per year, help children do better in class and improve their daily diet.

“This week is about not only encouraging children to really understand and enjoy the food they eat but to celebrate  all the schools chefs and catering staff who work day-in day-out to help provide school meals and ensure that we live in a fairer society where every child can get the best possible start in life, regardless of their background.”

Hundreds of schools across the country will also be taking part in the celebrations, which mark the biggest healthy eating awareness week aimed at children in England and Wales. With one in five children leaving primary school overweight or  obese, ensuring a healthy, nutritionally balanced school lunch has never been so important.

To help raise awareness and enhance children’s relationships with food, school cooks will be taking their skills out of the school kitchen to showcase to parents and pupils the variety and quality of food now being served in schools.

Planned activities include:

  • School chefs cooking a great school lunch at high-profile venues across the country, including Manchester City football club, Speke Hall and Wigan Athletic  FC.
  • Pop-up school kitchen outside Parliament to serve great school lunches to MPs today,  Tuesday 4 November. Top school food will be served by award-winning school chefs, including organic beef Jamaican Pie with mash, vegetable paella, cheesy leek pasta and tutti frutti crumble.
  • Celebrity chefs including Gregg Wallace and Lorraine Pascale working with schools to highlight the tasty, health school food.

Schools Minister David Laws said:

“Eating a healthy, nutritious, meal at school has been proven to help children do better academically and we have made great progress in ensuring more and more pupils all over the country can enjoy those benefits.

“With the help of hard working staff, we have improved the quality of food in schools without increasing costs and thanks to Universal Infant Free School Meals every child from the age of four to seven has access to a healthy meal at lunchtime – saving parents up to £400 a year.

“This week celebrates that progress and provides a chance to show off the creativity and talent of our hard working school catering staff to the wider community.”

Supportive quotes:

Diane Modahl, Olympian and founder of the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation said;

“A healthy meal is essential to give children the concentration and energy they need for learning and productive play. Good nutrition coupled with sport provides both discipline and motivation for young people to raise their aspirations and enabling them to fulfil their potential – be it in sport or other activities.

“At the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation, we believe that a well-balanced lunch provides the vital fuel to become a champion in the classroom and in the playground.”

Brian Turner CBE, President Royal Academy of Culinary Arts:

‘Every week should be National Schools Week, well done to all those getting involved. The future of our country depends on the health of our infants, lets make it work.’

Gary Rhodes OBE said:

“National School Meals week provides us with an opportunity to add a new approach and response from the young to good flavoursome and seasonal culinary produce. Within these days we can also help set a new table manners approach, which reminds me so much of my ‘days of old’. As we all know the very early lessons in and to life, are the most important of all with children so easily led by their leaders in all walks of life, let’s take advantage of such an influential  set of days that will add a whole new a meaning to ‘Great British Produce’ to so many”

Carrieanne Bishop, National Chair of LACA, the lead association for catering in education, said:

“It is vital to our children’s wellbeing that they eat a healthy, nutritious hot meal on a regular basis. National School Meals Week is about celebrating the great school lunch and showing the great quality of meals on offer to students every day. School food has come a long way in the 21 years since the first National School Meals Week with school cooks now amongst the best chefs in the country.

“A school lunch helps young people recharge their batteries to be at their best for afternoon lessons, and for many students a school lunch is the only hot and healthy meal they will get.”

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