Latest education news for schools across the globe
When it comes to school lunches, options differ drastically by each country, from four-course meals consisting of roast beef, tabbouleh and apple tart in France to spaghetti with seafood sauce and fish fillet au gratin in Italy, each country offers its own unique meal choices for school pupils.
Children across the globe are offered a variety of foods to tuck into at lunchtime, and we’re looking at what school lunches around the world look like and how these differ in terms of nutrition and variety.
Starting with the home country of AMI’s headquarters, UK’s school canteens have seen drastic changes to the food provided over the years, with a dramatic shift toward more nutritional food in recent years, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Feed Me Better campaign in the noughties. Oliver’s campaign increased the standards of school meals and reduced saturated fat, sugar and salt present in the food served to children.
Today, lunch options in the UK are far more varied, with an increased number of options for different dietary preferences, and Research by the Children’s Food Trust shows that school meals in the UK are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, providing children with a better foundation for good health. Typical hot school lunches include vegetarian lasagne, pasta bake, fresh salads, jam roly-poly and more; fresh, healthy options with some old classics added in.
Known for its culinary delights, France offers its pupils slightly more decadent options, including brie, steak, and apple tart to name a few, whilst adhering to strict nutritional regulations concerning portion sizes, nutritional composition, and cooking methods. For example, starters containing more than 15% fat can be served no more than 4 out of 20 days, which means that salads, grilled chicken with grains and even roast guinea fowl make regular appearances on French school menus.
As a nation with a healthier, and perhaps more inclusive attitude toward food, it is no surprise that Italians focus on setting up children for healthy eating habits in adult life, and school lunches are the perfect way to promote healthy eating practices. Guidelines state that Italian school lunches must include a starchy dish such as rice or pasta, a main course such as meat, fish, cheese, two or more vegetable side dishes, and plenty of fruit.
Besides, Italian law is much stricter regarding unhealthy food on school menus and forbids cafeterias from serving deep-fried food such as chips and fried chicken. Therefore, popular lunch items include minestrone, mushroom risotto, and the occasional scoop of gelato.
Unlike the other countries in this list, lunch is considered the main meal of the day in Greece, which means pupils often eat lunch at home or bring a packed lunch into school and therefore, many schools don’t offer subsidized school lunches. However, schools that do serve lunch offer options such as baked chicken with orzo, cucumber and tomato salad, stuffed vine leaves and yoghurt with fruit for dessert.
Research shows that receiving free or reduced-price school lunches reduce food insecurity, obesity rates, and poor health, and what sets Sweden apart from the other countries is the fact that since 1997, all children in the country have access to a free hot school lunch, which consists of a hot meal, salad buffet, bread and a drink, with vegetarians options available to all.
Desserts and soft drinks, however, are not served, and options such as pizza and deep-fried food have been removed in recent years, with a focus on healthy and sustainable meal options such as meat or vegetable stew with potatoes, pasta with sauce, and knäckebröd, Sweden’s famous crispy bread.
(The Japan Guy)
In Japan, school lunches are offered to nursery and middle school children and are served in the classroom, with an emphasis on nutrition education and teaching pupils how to cook healthy food from scratch and making students aware of the nutritional components of the food they’re eating. Unsurprisingly, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, which is likely a result of offering pupils food such as miso soup with pork, rice with grilled fish, milk, and dried fruit for dessert.
South Korea is another country known for its healthy school lunch offerings and emphasis on health education. Since pupils are encouraged to partake in various extracurricular activities after school, pupils need to be served healthy lunch options that will sustain them into the evening. Popular dishes include fried rice with tofu, kimchi, fish soup and mixed green vegetables.
Last but certainly not least, America is a country famous for its plethora of junk food offerings and fast food outlets on every corner. In US schools, the National School Lunch Programme provides low-cost or free school lunches to 31 million students at more than 100,000 schools per day, and meals must meet the nutritional standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
However, tight budgets and unhealthy school vendors have meant that lunches served in some US schools (but not all) are highly processed and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. These lunches often look like popcorn chicken with French fries, mashed potatoes, and for dessert, fruit cups and chocolate chip cookies.
Resources for schools:
Pre-Ordering School Meals
What are the benefits of Pre-Ordered school meals?
It has been reported that food wastage is currently costing schools over £250 million each year. Pre-ordering school meals dramatically reduces food wastage and associated costs. The intervention of software aims to reduce food wastage by providing school meal service providers with exact numbers of meal portions that need to be prepared that day, eliminating the need for over-catering and ensuring children receive the meal that they want.
Although school caterers generally have information on the total number of pupils they are cooking for, in most schools, they have no information about the specific numbers for each meal option. Although they are skilled at estimating how many children will choose each meal, they have no real way of knowing the exact numbers and this lack of information can then result in food being wasted.
What are the benefits to students and parents of Pre-Ordered school meals?
With a system that allows pre-ordered school meals, children and parents can choose their preferred meal option meaning not only reduced wastage but better food education, encouragement of healthy food options and increased parental engagement.
According to BUPA, the UK has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, with around 1 in 10 children aged 4 to 5 classified as obese, and around 1 in 5 children aged 10 to 11. Pre-ordering meal software allows pupils to be actively involved in planning their meal choice and to take ownership of their diets.
To encourage students to select healthier foods, recent research has focused on how environmental changes and behavioural economics can guide children to make healthier choices. This includes the pre-ordering of lunch. Pre-ordering school meals could pre-empt hunger-based, spontaneous selections, and eliminate the sensory cues—evocative smells and sights—that lead to less healthy choices.
For a student, getting their choice of meal, feeling comfortable with the process, not being rushed, and not having to wait in long queues are seen as key elements for schools adopting a pre-ordered approach to school meals.
There is also the benefit for children with food allergies and intolerances, as a pre-ordered meal can be chosen in line with the necessary specifications
Pre-ordering school meals also benefit students by reducing queueing at mealtimes. The lunchtime rush becomes a much smoother experience when meals are already ordered and paid for, as children simply have to collect their chosen meal from the cafeteria. Reducing meal queuing times for students further means a reduced percentage of pupils favouring out-of-the-gate spending and in turn, this lowers the likelihood of excessive junk food being consumed leading to childhood obesity.
Pre-ordering is essentially pre-empting, and in today's society using technology to plan ahead is the most efficient way to control an entity such as a school. Technology enables schools to pre-plan, taking the opportunity for human error and unnecessary time spent away, and allowing better use of school resources.
Changing the lunchtime experience post-lockdown
One thing that is seemingly unavoidable in day to day life is queuing. Be it at the supermarket, post office or dry cleaners; waiting lines happen everywhere, anywhere and to anyone. Yet one place in which queues are in surplus and yet hugely unacknowledged or addressed is in schools. Despite sometimes being as disastrous as in retail, queuing in schools is rarely discussed.
The first contact with queuing in schools happens as students are trying to enrol and stretch over their time in education to queuing for mealtimes, school trips, registration and more. The biggest offender by far is the day to day slog of mealtime queuing in schools. Long waiting times matched with only a short period in which to eat makes lunchtime queuing something that needs to be addressed and improved for the benefit of staff and pupils.
The age-old custom of waiting in line wastes the average person up to two years of their life, according to a study by Casumo, and although saying goes ‘time is money’, time is also time, something which students can’t afford to waste. A student’s priority is to study and with a solid queue management system in place that follows strict social distancing rules, the time saved by a pupil can be used for more important school matters.
What are the results of bad queue management in schools?
A secondary school in London found this out the hard way, as its pupils were shunning food in a school canteen and instead were favouring the option to leave school grounds and purchase their lunches rather than queue for the school meals provided. This kind of ‘out-of-gate' spending can mean students are consuming unhealthy foods for lunch, of which the school cannot have full control over. Unhealthy lunches are one of the main contributors to childhood obesity and poor nutrition in children.
Lengthy waiting times for lunch isn’t an issue confined to smaller state schools either and arguably, somewhat worse than the out-of-gate junk food purchasing seen in London - In Neath, South Wales, pupils of a £40m Baglan Bay High School have waited throughout the entire lunch break and had to go back to class on an empty stomach.
What are the solutions for better queue management in schools?
The introduction of cashless catering software such as AMI’s Transact meal ordering and registration for primary schools is revolutionary in cutting waiting times during school lunchtime by allowing pupils to pre-order their lunch choices via an interactive whiteboard or the teacher’s PC, allowing younger pupils to select their food in a fun and interactive way.
Once the order has been placed, the pupil’s lunch choice is sent to the kitchen to be prepared ready for when they arrive at the dining hall, reducing the need to queue whilst pupils make their lunch choices.
Other solutions to reduce school queues include AMI’s ID management system and contactless cards, reducing contact at lunch whilst ensuring new social distancing measures are strictly adhered to. This software offers an option of real-time database sync from MIS system meaning there is no chance of mistakenly missed students and all applications are managed through one main database.
Software such as AMI’s Identity Management means students waiting for their lunch are identified through their contactless cards to make payments, gain access to areas, reset passwords and much more �" saving huge amounts of time and resources during the mealtime rush. Queue management software is leading the way to more efficient waiting times, organisation, and simplified identity management.
By using a cashless catering system and ID management software, schools can not only generate reports to show what food has been ordered but they can also keep track of food wastage at the click of a button. This gives schools control over the content of their pupil's meals, benefits their budgets (by avoiding unnecessary spending) and allows them to be environmentally sensitive by not contributing to food wastage.
While the queuing controversy in schools can be partially solved by a more efficient waiting area layout, which will begin to improve as more schools place ordering and collection points around the school, the core problem lies in queue management itself. The solution, therefore, is to invest in a queue management system for schools.
It is not enough to just say that schools need queue management to ensure their students eat correctly and on time; but in a time where social distancing and minimal contact is key, cashless software is crucial to protect pupils and reduce the risk of germs spreading as lockdown measures ease and pupils return to school.
Visit here to learn more about AMI’s full range of cashless catering and Identity Management solutions.
Schools: A global view
As schools begin to re-open across the globe, we take a look at the varied measures countries are taking to ensure the safeguarding of their staff and pupils.
- In Denmark, primary schools opened their doors in the middle of April, with secondary schools following one month later. The classroom looks remarkably different as desks are stationed six feet apart, and parents are no longer allowed inside school buildings. To ensure pupils adhere to social distancing guidelines, classes are held outside where possible, and communal areas such as playgrounds and school libraries are currently closed. Schools have also installed handwashing stations outside of the buildings and students are encouraged to wash their hands every hour.
- Germany has also begun to reopen schools, prioritising younger pupils and those pupils due to sit exams.
Classrooms have been set up so that desks are two meters apart and display all of the necessary signs and posters that encourage social distancing and hand washing. School leaders state that face masks will be encouraged but is not mandatory.
- Similarly to Germany, pupils in Austria returned to school earlier this month. However, to ensure safe social distancing, schools in Austria are splitting their class sizes in half. This means that pupils will now be attending school 2.5 days a week, to alternate the classroom space.
- In France, the education ministry has issued detailed instructions to schools on how to keep their premises clean and their pupils safe. The document states that; children over the age of 11 need to wear masks, a class cannot exceed 15 children, there are to be no shared toys, and schools are to implement timed arrivals.
However, even with these safety requirements in place, parents are reluctant to send their children back to school. Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Education Minister said:
- Schools have re-opened in Asia, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and parts of Japan. In Japan, Taiwan, and China, staff members are taking students' temperatures before they enter school buildings. Whereas in Beijing, pupils are required to fill out a survey on an app that calculates a person's risk of infection. Some students were also given personal thermometers and are required to take their temperature twice a day while at school.
- In Israel, schools are beginning to open for elementary school pupils. However, like France, significant numbers of parents initially chose to keep their children at home. Second and third graders in Israel wear protective masks while in school, but not in the classroom.
- For New Zealand, the Ministry of Education has said that schools “can start a transition period from Thursday 14 May”, which allows them to bring different year groups back gradually and gives them the option of providing a “transition arrangement” for those children “whose parents are anxious about their return to school”.
- Schools in Sweden have remained open throughout. They have relied on social distancing and hygiene measures to reduce the spread of infection. School leaders in Sweden have followed similar advice to schools around the world, such as:
- Keeping sick staff and students at home
- Raising awareness of hand hygiene
- Extra cleaning
- Social distancing
- Heading outside, where possible
- Continually preparing for changes
- As the United Kingdom prepares to re-open schools over the next few months, with some schools in England preparing to return as early as June, we take a look at some of the guidance education professionals will be following:
1. Reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups
Class sizes are also expected to be limited to 15 pupils, which will be particularly difficult for large secondary schools across the UK. To facilitate this, schools are being asked to utilise other spaces that they have available, and in some cases, teachers may be asked to move classrooms, instead of pupils, to help control traffic in communal school areas.
2. Staggered break and lunchtimes, as well as drop-offs and pick-ups
Staggering break times will give schools more control over high-traffic areas, and ensure that social distancing guidelines are adhered to.
3. Increasing the frequency of cleaning
As well as maintaining a high level of cleanliness in the school building with thorough and frequent sanitisation of any shared objects, education professionals will also be tasked with encouraging pupils to increase the number of times a day that they wash their hands.
Were here to help the return to school process as easy as possible. Get in touch.
Reducing food wastage in schools
We’re all encouraged to adopt eco-friendly habits such as recycling, switching off lights when they’re not in use and taking shorter showers, but reducing food wastage could be one of the key actions we can take to minimise our impact to the environment.
On Stop Food Waste Day 2020, we’re looking at how schools and pupils can reduce food wastage to help protect the environment and save time and money.
Many adults are aware of the smaller measures they can take to help protect the environment, and whilst these efforts should be encouraged, schools need to instil these habits from an early age and make pupils aware of the impact they can make, especially when it comes to wasting food.
Whilst most schools teach pupils about ways in which we can help save the environment, schools and caterers can put these lessons into practice every lunchtime by taking the appropriate measures to ensure that food wastage is kept to a minimum.
Reduce food wastage with cashless catering software
Switching to cashless catering such as pre-ordering software is one of the most effective ways that schools can minimise their environmental impact and reduce food wastage on a larger scale. AMI’s range of pre-ordering software, including Transact, allows pupils of all ages to pre-order their school lunches, sending orders to the kitchen ahead of time to allow catering staff to prepare meals in advance. By informing staff of meal choices in advance, schools can avoid producing too much food and can focus on only preparing what is necessary.
On a primary school level, Transact provides a fun and interactive solution for pupils to pre-order their meal selection during the morning registration process. Pupils can make their selection at a teacher’s PC or interactive whiteboard, sending orders to the kitchen in advance. By giving younger pupils the option to choose their food in a fun and interactive way, pupils are encouraged to take interest and become excited about their food choices, making them more likely to eat all of their lunch and reducing the risk of food being left on the plate.
Pre-ordering school meals also helps reduce food waste by minimising queuing times, allowing pupils to choose their favourite lunch options in advance, ensuring they have access to the food they enjoy, whilst reducing queuing times and giving students adequate time to enjoy their lunch. By improving the dining experience and making lunchtime enjoyable for all pupils, food wastage can be reduced and save schools time and money.
Where food is being wasted in schools
Waste management experts WRAP found that in both primary and secondary schools, the kitchen and canteen areas produced the majority of the total food waste, representing food that is prepared in the kitchen and served, but not eaten in the canteen. In primary schools, the total produced in these two areas was 72%, with an equal split between the kitchen (36%) and canteen (36%). This can be reduced with the implementation of cashless catering software, benefitting staff and pupils.
The organisers of Stop Food Waste Day are encouraging everyone to take the pledge to reduce their food wastage and urge others to do the same. They have found that 33% of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year, whilst 25% of the global food wasted could feed 795 million undernourished people in the world.
How schools can help
Here are some other ways that schools can encourage pupils to reduce their food wastage:
- Serve correct portion sizes- younger children don’t need big portions, therefore if they are given larger quantities of food, they are likely to become too full and leave the majority on their plate, which can be avoided by serving portions appropriate to the child’s age. For older pupils, encourage them to eat smaller portions, and only go back for seconds if they’re still hungry.
- Encourage pupils to discover the flavours they like- years ago, children were often encouraged to eat whatever was given to them, even if they didn’t like that food. If children discover flavours they enjoy and learn their favourite types of food, they are less likely to waste unwanted food and are more likely to clear their plates at lunchtime.
- Encourage school dinners over packed lunches- a recent study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has found that the provision of free school meals in schools is a useful weapon in the fight against childhood obesity, with school meals providing more nutrition than packed lunches. If pupils are given a range of choices for their lunch, they’re more likely to choose the food they enjoy, whilst schools can monitor the nutritional value of the options provided.
- Promote a calm eating environment- many pupils are likely to get excited about lunchtime, however, if the dining hall is noisy, this can cause an unpleasant eating environment for some pupils, prompting them to avoid spending time in the dining hall, leaving behind the food on their plates.
- Make pupils aware of the issue- especially for older pupils, schools can demonstrate the impact of food wastage on their environment on a wider scale, similarly to Loughborough High who launched a campaign after realising how much food was being thrown out. They started by measuring a week’s waste and then filling the equivalent of black bags (around 20) with paper and card and putting them in the middle of the school hall so pupils saw them when they arrived for assembly. The students were then asked to come up with their ideas for reducing waste.
Visit Stop Food Waste Day’s website to learn more about the campaign.
Within the Education Industry
With most of the world in lockdown due to COVID-19, including schools, many workers are having to adapt to working from home, a new style of working for professionals in the education industry. For education professionals, this new style of working can bring up a variety of challenges, including how to continue as normal during these unusual working conditions.
To ensure working life continues as normal, we’ve put together our top tips for working from home, with simple points on how to keep some normality during these unprecedented times.
Set goals (and stick to them)
Even though many schools are shut and pupils are at home, it’s still important to try and set achievable goals for yourself, staff and students. These can include catching up on admin work, setting reading tasks for pupils or simply communicating with parents; by setting achievable goals, you’ll add some structure and normality into your new routine. If you need any assistance on software maintenance, the staff at ami are happy to help.
Set up a comfortable working space
Those of us who are not used to working from home are unlikely to be blessed with impressive office spaces, but it’s vital to set up a separate space that you can dedicate to your work.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of bringing your laptop onto the sofa, however, spaces that you use to relax should be reserved for just that purpose, otherwise, it can be difficult to switch off at the end of the day. If possible, set up a dedicated working space, such as a dining room table, spare room or anywhere in your home with minimal disruption.
Establish a routine
Routines are what keep us focused and grounded, and since we’re creatures of habit, it’s important to try and set and maintain a routine each day to help ease the transition into home working. Try and maintain similar habits that you practised when working out of the home, such as morning exercise, waking up at the same time every day, making a healthy breakfast etc. Sticking to a routine will eventually help to bring some normality into your new style of working.
Take regular breaks
When working in a school or education environment, it can often be difficult to find time to take regular breaks, especially if surrounded by pupils. When working from home, it can be easy to stay at your desk for hours without realising the time, which can have detrimental effects on your back and eyesight. Whether you get up to make a drink, stretch or simply pet your dog, set yourself a reminder to take regular screen breaks; your dog will appreciate the extra belly rubs!
Ask for support
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, business at ami will continue as normal, and our staff are here to help. If you have any queries regarding our software, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team. Remote working can lead to the feeling of isolation for many people, but it’s important to remember that we’re all in this situation together, therefore we should support each other during these difficult times.
With the ever-changing nature of this pandemic and new developments emerging daily, there has been an emphasis on taking each day as it comes. However, when it comes to working, this can be the perfect opportunity to schedule some time to plan-ahead, including for when schools are likely to open.
Councils and staff can use this time to monitor food trends to see the types of food pupils have been ordering, helping to determine which areas to focus on for spend and allowing schools to reduce food wastage and save money. This can be done through ami’s Infinity and Transact software, trusted by thousands of schools and councils across the UK.
Maintain regular communication
As professionals across the world make the transition from office to home-based working, it is vital for individuals and teams to maintain regular communication, even when discussing non-work-related topics.
One of the benefits of working within an office or school is the opportunity to chat with colleagues, discuss weekend plans and build friendships. Even though face-to-face contact is now minimised, with modern technology teams can continue that communication through tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, House Party and more, helping to maintain that important social interaction.
COVID-19 has proved to be challenging for many professionals in the education sector. By practising these simple methods and with business at ami continuing as normal, adapting to this new style of working can be seamless and straightforward. For help and support, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at aim.
Please stay at home and stay safe.