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HCL Celebrates National School Meals Week

National School Meals Week proudly commemorates its 30th anniversary, marking three decades of spotlighting the vital role of school dinners. We kicked off the week, at St. Helens Church of England in St Albans, a visit that was met with immense excitement! Our CEO, Ian Hamilton, eagerly joined pupils and headteacher Mrs. Healy to savour the delicious meal and engage in meaningful discussions.

The day started with a warm welcome from a group of enthusiastic children across different age groups, eager to enjoy lunch and share their thoughts on school meals. Ian Hamilton delved into conversations, seeking insights from the pupils, and they certainly did not disappoint. Through conversation, we learned that lunchtimes at St Helens were incredibly engaging for pupils on a regular basis, whether it was theme days, creative fruit displays or the double serving of dessert they received on their birthdays - truly amazing!

Mrs. Healy emphasised the importance of a hot, balanced meal for children's focus and

behaviour, going on to say:

"We don’t know for certain when children come in, if they have had breakfast in the morning. If children are hungry, they won’t focus, and behaviour is not great when children are hungry. So, to come in, to have a hot meal, to eat a good balanced meal is very important for them. Given that our team works tirelessly to make meals enticing while maintaining nutritional value, the students' excitement reaffirmed our efforts."

The pupils' knowledge on allergy management and menu evolution was astounding and it was safe to say that we were all blown away by the knowledge the pupils had and their awareness of just how much school meals had evolved since the times their parents may have had them. A pupil mentioned when discussing the array of menu options available to them daily,

“We have different options to our parents, like vegan meals and gluten free ones”

Each student had a remarkable understanding of the menu, favouring options from jacket potatoes to pizza slices, even encouraging their parents to recreate these dishes at home, with chicken curry and BBQ chicken being at the top of the list!

Their awareness of the importance of vegetables was evident, with one student noting the staff's encouragement to include veggies in their meals with one pupil commenting,

“They ask us what vegetables we want, not if we want vegetables, so we know that we have to have vegetables”

– demonstrating the importance of the encouragement our kitchen staff provide at the service points in ensuring each child is getting a balanced meal.

Thanks to all the amazing kitchen staff, the day was a resounding success, with Mrs Healy singing their praises when she said,

“Our Kitchen staff are amazing. The ladies in the kitchen, they’re just part of our team as well now. We know they are HCL staff, but they’ve become part of us which is nice. You’re very dependent on who is in your kitchen and we’re very lucky to have such a great team".

The staff were organised, efficient and worked together, ensuring the pupils enjoyed a fantastic roast dinner while feeling heard with their invaluable feedback.

Ian Hamilton expressed his sentiments when he quoted,

“I visited St Helen’s Church of England Primary School to celebrate 30 years of National Schools Meals Week and had the pleasure of meeting 8 delightful children before and during lunch as they discussed what they liked about school meals. They knew about the positive aspects of a healthy meal in the middle of the day and were aware of allergies and the importance of children, and adults, eating correctly prepared food if they had intolerances. A big thank you to Mrs Healy, the head teacher, and the catering staff and pupils for making it such a lovely lunch.”

HCL CEO Ian Hamilton eats lunch with pupils and staff.

This visit emphasised the integral role of school meals and the early absorption of healthy eating education in primary school children, paving the way for informed decision-making.

A wonderful start to National School Meals Week! Heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Healy and the incredible students at St. Helens for hosting us.


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