Cooking up a healthy treat: school recipe book launched

A new cook book aimed at school caterers, containing nutritional recipes for 280 of the most popular school dinners, has been launched. This coincides with Northern Ireland’s School Meals Week.

The book – ‘Stop, Look, Cook!’ – has been produced by the Public Health Agency (PHA) in partnership with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the Department of Education (DE) .

Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA, said: “We know that more of our children and young people are becoming overweight or obese and we also know that it needs all of us to work together to improve health and wellbeing. We are focusing attention on the school dining hall and how meals are served. This is a great opportunity to influence children’s eating habits and their understanding of nutrition.

“The behaviours that children develop can have a knock-on effect in later life, and we know that the food our children eat can affect their health for many years to come.

“I would like to commend the school catering staff for leading this change which will benefit our children’s health. The recipe book will be an invaluable source of information for school caterers to help them cook up tasty and nutritious food which in turn will encourage children and young people to enjoy a balanced diet.”

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “Obesity is one of the most important health issues facing Northern Ireland, and we should all be concerned that more of our children and young people are becoming overweight or obese. A recent survey reported that 8% of children aged 2-15 years were obese. This issue needs to be addressed now to prevent our children being at risk of developing a range of health problems in later life. This will lead to a greater burden on our health and social care services, with more people requiring treatment for obesity related illnesses”.

“Children spend a significant proportion of their time in the school setting, therefore it is vital that schools promote healthy lifestyle choices and help children develop healthy habits which can have a positive impact on their future health and wellbeing. That is why the Stop, Look, Cook! Recipe Book for school caterers is so important and I look forward to seeing the impact it has on the thousands of children who eat school lunches. This initiative is in line with my Department’s Framework for Preventing and Addressing Overweight and Obesity, A Fitter Future for All, which supports and promotes a range of actions to improve health in the school environment”.

Education Minister John O’Dowd welcomed the introduction of Stop. Look, Cook. He said: “The relationship between nutritious food and health is well known. ‘Stop, Look, Cook!’ is the latest in a series of resources developed to support the implementation of the nutritional standards for school lunches which have been in place in all schools since 2007.

“I would like to pay tribute to those who were the driving force behind this publication. It is the result of a concerted effort by the School Catering Services, in particular the five nutritional standards coordinators, working in conjunction with the Food in Schools’ Coordinator in the PHA. This is an excellent example of working across Departments to ensure that the health of our children continues to improve.

“We know that a nutritious meal during the day can make a child more receptive to learning. In using these recipes school caterers can be assured that they are meeting the nutritional standards and providing nutritionally balanced school lunches for our children and young people. Equally, parents and pupils can be reassured that school lunches are healthy and offer good value for money.”