The Big School Dinner Debate

25 February 2010, 11:01 | Updated: 25 February 2010, 11:06

Promoting healthy eating across South East schools will be top of the agenda today (Thursday) when a host of health professionals, professors, nutritionists and doctors will come together to discuss various approaches to improve the quality and experience of school dining.

The emphasis of the day, which has been organised by the Department of Health South East, will focus on bringing together perspectives from children, catering staff, head teachers, nutritionists, and academics to celebrate and showcase work across the region to increase the number of children taking a school meal. The delegates will be able to discuss practical strategies with each other in terms of school meals uptake in their own area.

Pam Naylor, Healthy Weight Lead for Department of Health South East who organised the conference said: "We are aware that the uptake of school lunches in the South East is not as high as in other parts of the country and we know that generally, a good healthy school lunch contributes more to a child's healthy diet than packed lunches - so our regional conference is being held to encourage and support schools to improve rates of uptake and therefore the health of children in the South East "

Some good examples of work already underway in the South East are:

Portsmouth - Lyndhurst School - has begun a school food revolution spearheaded by the school head Margaret Beel. She ensures that children learn about food and where it comes from in all areas of the curriculum throughout the school.

When Margaret Beel arrived, the school cook’s only equipment was a whisk, a potato-peeler and a hand-grater. They put in a new kitchen fit for preparing fresh food and are about to open a new dedicated cookery facility for the children. Although the school doesn’t have much outdoor space, they still grow wherever they can in grow bags and containers. Every pupil gets involved in growing and cooking activities.

In the last year school meal take up has risen by 54% at the school.