The Importance of providing healthy school meals

Time to read: 5min 10 Apr 2023

Healthy school meals are an integral part of children’s education, and the benefits of providing a nutritious school meal with every lunchtime extend to students, parents, and schools.

A healthy school meal helps children get the best from their learning, while also helping to address some of the inherent economic and health differences between children who frequently eat healthy food at home and those who don’t.

Our 2022 School meals report found that 45% of parents considered nutritional value to be a key factor in deciding whether a school meal was of high quality; put simply, if a school can demonstrate to parents that its school meals are healthy, increased meal uptake will soon follow. Kitchens making more meals have more opportunities for efficiencies, and school kitchens utilising cloud-based software to manage their meal provision can achieve these efficiencies more easily than ever.

How a healthy diet affects children’s education

Children being hungry affects their learning outcomes due to a few different factors. Providing nutritious school meals helps children retain their focus, concentration, and energy levels during the afternoon to get the most out of their learning. We all know how difficult it is to focus and work when we’re hungry, and research by the Food Foundation found that when children had not eaten, “88% of teachers reported pupils being excessively tired, 84% reported them being easily distracted, and 74% observed disruptive behaviour”.

A 2018 review of universal free school meals found that teachers reported improvements in children’s readiness for learning, concentration in the classroom and overall behaviour, as a result of the FSM programme. The report attributed these finds to “better health and pupils being better equipped to absorb the material presented in school after eating a nutritious lunch”.

The review also found that attainment was most improved for pupils in less affluent families. Providing healthy and nutritious school meals enables all children to have the same opportunities to learn while they are at school, and helps to mitigate the effects of socioeconomic differences, with children from the least well-off families more likely to be living with overweight or obese than those from the most affluent families.

The food Foundation identified a reduction in 0besity in children receiving free school meals, which they largely attributed to the fact school meals are much healthier on average than packed lunches, with only 1.6% of packed lunches meeting the Government’s School Food Standards. Schools that can increase meal uptake don’t just boost revenue and improve efficiency for themselves; they will be helping more students, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, to access a healthier meal and improve not only their learning outcomes but their lifetime health and achievement, too.

How Cypad solutions help caterers provide healthy school meals 

Cypad’s user-friendly platform makes it easy for caterers to provide nutritious school meals, and for schools to boost meal uptake and help all students to enjoy a healthy mid-day meal.

Our meal pre-ordering function helps parents and children to make healthy meal choices and supports caterers to provide nutritious school meals to more students at an affordable price. Parents can pre-order their child’s school meal from home, and view all of the nutrition and allergy information about the meal choices, simplifying the process of choosing nutritious meals and letting them see what their child has eaten at school. Our School Meals Report found that 66% of primary school parents would like the ability to see what school meals their child has eaten in the recent past, but only 12% had this available to them, meaning schools are likely to be looking out for caterers which utilise software to give parents greater visibility and involvement.

Pupils can also pre-order their lunchtime meal which their teacher during registration, so school kitchens have all the information they need about that day’s service by 9 am and can cook food according to demand. These streamlined processes mean that caterers are able to reduce waste by only cooking the meals that have been pre-ordered, and removing the risk of a child with an allergy being given a meal that’s not safe for them to eat, which consequently goes to waste.

Using Cypad’s powerful reporting, schools can reduce waste and costs even further. The intuitive interface lets users analyse the cost-per-plate and nutritional value, and make changes to reduce costs, while Cypad’scentralised meal management system means that they can save the new recipe for future use across all school sites.

School kitchens can also run reports to see their most popular meal choices and which ones aren’t chosen as often, letting them refine their meal offering, change them to make them more appealing and increase school meal uptake, and save money by buying ingredients for their most popular meals in bulk and no longer buying the ones used to make less popular meal choices. Not only that, but Cypad solutions can simplify the ordering process by integrating with suppliers, freeing up essential admin time for staff to focus on more important tasks.

Cypad is proud to be part of ParentPay Group Catering alongside BlueRunner. Together, the two brands bring premium, end-to-end digital kitchen, meal management and cashless PoS solutions to the market, for education and hospitality establishments across the UK and Europe. To find out more about Cypad and to book a demo, get in touch with us.

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