Working with children, although rewarding, can also been quite tricky.

In spite of having a short amount of life experience, children know their own minds and they’re relatively firm when it comes to their likes and dislikes, which can vary dramatically from child to child. This makes catering for children rather challenging, especially when faced with it everyday. To help, we’ve teamed up with our Education Ambassador, Jeanette Orrey MBE to share 8  top tips on engaging your children and increasing school meal uptake.

Students are customers

If possible, chat to your students at lunchtime, get to know them and ask them what they like and dislike. It’s important to find out what they really think about food so you can meal plan accordingly.

Inspire their creativity

We’re so pleased that it’s now a core part of the curriculum to educate children about food provenance and how to cook it. Give the children the opportunity to get involved in the process of how their lunch is provided so they can learn the connection from farm to fork. Encourage them to share the knowledge that they’ve learnt about food by encouraging them to create posters promoting their favourite dishes, these could be displayed in your dining hall.

Make them proud

Make the dining hall a fun, exciting and engaging place that the children both want and are proud to be in. Suggest a family day and encourage your students to invite a relative or guardian to lunch. This will not only show them that you’re dedicated to their child’s nutrition but it may also encourage those children who don’t normally have school meals to join in.

A nudge in the right direction

Place the ‘better for you’ dishes in the direct line of sight for children. Making salads and fruit easier to reach will encourage students to add them to their plate.

Feeling part of it

Encourage students to appreciate the cooking process and increase their knowledge of ingredients by simplifying some of your recipes so that they can try to recreate it themselves.

Creatures of habit

Introduce new dishes to your menu but try sampling the dish first with students. Children tend to stick to what they know, so offering samples first will encourage them to try something new. This also allows you the opportunity to gauge a dish’s popularity before you bulk buy the ingredients.

Green fingers

If you’re able to, grow your own herb garden. Children will love the responsibility in helping maintain the herbs and knowing that they have been a part of the process when they tuck into lunch will make them feel closer to the food they are eating. Growing your own ingredients is also great for cutting costs.

The best is not yet to come

Avoid using dessert as a bribe for students to finish their main meal. This will instill the idea that dessert is more desirable than their savoury dish. Instead, encourage them by talking about the ingredients and merits of all the dishes they are eating.  

We hope that these top tips will help to make your day-to-day a little easier! Why not share some of your top tips with us?