As the eating habits of children change and evolve, their expectations of school dinners are changing too. Combined with increasing costs, this makes increasing meal uptake in schools a real challenge.
One key issue facing caterers is the strict health criteria they are required to meet. There are many ways these can be met. For example, offering a meal deal with a free peice of fruit or veg when purchasing a sandwich and salad pot tempts children into buying two portions.
Well-designed menus can also encourage students to eat healthier, such as giving meals generalised titles ("Piri Piri" or "Reggae Reggae" Chicken). Caterers can then include several portions of vegetables, such as pineapple pieces or baby corn, without stating them in the name of the dish.
In primary schools, names relating to the colours of food can help to make vegetables fun - such as "Traffic Light Peppers".
Research shows that food in schools is healthier than it was before the introduction of mandatory School Food Standards in England. The proportion of teenagers choosing chips at lunch time is down from 43% to just 7% in the last three years, and three-quarters of children now choose to have salad or vegetables.