The importance of nutritious and healthy meals in primary schools
With National School Meals Week taking place between the 13th and the 17th November, it’s a great time to consider the importance of having healthy and nutritious meals available in your primary school.
When we think of school food we might well be taken back to memories of a frowning cook, soggy vegetables and lumpy custard. However, in recent years there has been a great deal of debate around school meals and how crucial it is to ensure primary school children are being given the right foods during the school day to help them learn and grow.
So why is it so important for primary school children to be given healthy school meals? Let’s take a look at the most critical reasons:
Protecting vulnerable children
Providing nutritious, healthy and filling school meals is a great way of protecting school children who are most vulnerable. Some families struggle to provide healthy, balanced meals at home and so ensuring that children can get at least one hot, appealing, nourishing meal each time they come into school will help children from low-income families - making sure they get the right nutrients and number of calories to stay healthy and happy.
Developing social skills
School mealtimes are an excellent opportunity for children to develop their social skills. They are a time for conversation, for bringing people together and for learning good manners too. These skills are essential for children to learn from a young age, and schools who provide great meals can use this time as a way of helping children to develop their social skills as well as learning to appreciate mealtimes and the food they are given.
Teaching lifelong healthy eating habits
By providing wholesome school meals and raising awareness about nutrition, schools are helping pupils understand what their bodies need, what is good for them and the different nutrients different food groups provide. They also learn how these foods benefit the body and how they are used to enable them to function at their best. Helping children learn to love nutritious food and to want to feed themselves in the best way will give them a positive attitude towards healthy food and hopefully set them on the right path to ensure they eat well right into adulthood.
Keeping children healthy with balanced school meals
Primary school children are growing and developing every day, therefore making sure they are fed foods that will help to keep them healthy is crucial. Children who have healthy diets are less likely to get ill, and recover from illness and injury much more quickly than those with poor diets. A balanced diet with the right foods will ensure children have all the nutrients and calories they need to continue to grow and will keep them full of energy and feeling great.
Boosting pupils ability to learn and concentrate in class
Food can have a direct impact on how well a child does in the classroom. If children are hungry, they will find it impossible to concentrate. If they eat foods high in sugar but low in other nutrients they could experience large bursts of energy where they become distracted, followed by periods of sluggishness and irritability when the sugar wears off. Providing food which releases energy slowly and steadily will help children to concentrate. Giving pupils brain-boosting foods will keep them alert and interested, and making sure they eat meals which keep them fuller for longer will ensure they don’t get distracted by hunger pangs.
It’s positive that schools now take much more of an interest in providing healthy school meals, and, as a teacher, you have an essential role to play too. Making school mealtimes fun, varied and interesting, and educating children to ensure they are armed with the knowledge and desire to make healthy food choices will help give them the very best start in life, and make your classroom a more pleasant place to be too!