Several years ago, we commissioned some research to explore how the environment in which children eat a school lunch affects their perception of the experience.
Guess what? The dining space they eat in was actually more important to them than what was on their plates. Put another way: give them a dining space they want to spend time in and they’re much more likely to tuck into healthy school meals. Get the environment right, and it will help to get more children opting for school food.
That’s why, over the years, we’ve campaigned to raise the issue of the importance of decent dining spaces in schools – particularly at a time when funds are tight for schools and it can be such a challenge to find cash for a lick of paint, never mind anything more creative or substantial. Improving the canteen may feel peripheral; a job which can sit on a school’s wish-list for years and years due to lack of funds, but we know just how crippling poor dining space can be for schools trying to get children eating well. Whether it’s lack of seating and tables, poor acoustics which mean children struggle to hear each other while they’re eating, drab décor, dismal lighting or a myriad other problems, a canteen space which isn’t performing well for the customers and staff it has to serve creates huge obstacles.
Our Canteen Rescue competition this year – thanks to the generosity of YPO and Elygra Marketing Services – has shone a spotlight on these issues once again. The fantastic entries we received combined to demonstrate the variety of problems school dining rooms are facing….but also that so many of these have simple solutions, if only the financial support is available.
The national School Food Plan set out the actions needed to make school meals an experience every child wants to have. We’ve come a long way but there’s still a long way to go. And if where children eat can make such a difference to what they eat, don’t we owe it to their health to give them a dining space to be proud of?