• CATERING MONTH: Tracking the shift towards healthier options and tech-driven solutions

    960 640 Stuart O'Brien

    For decades, the British school dinner conjured images of stodgy puddings and mystery meat. However, the market has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, driven by a focus on healthier eating, changing dietary needs, and a rise in technology. Let’s explore how school catering has evolved and what the future holds for this vital sector…

    A Shift Towards Healthier Options

    • Government Guidelines: The introduction of government guidelines like the School Food Standards has played a key role in promoting healthier choices in school meals. Catering companies are now offering more fruit,vegetables, and whole grains to comply with these regulations.
    • Parental Concerns: With rising awareness of childhood obesity and healthy eating habits, parents are demanding more nutritious options for their children. Catering firms are responding by offering a wider variety of balanced meals.
    • Dietary Inclusivity: Catering solutions now cater to a wider range of dietary requirements, including allergies, intolerances, and vegetarian or vegan preferences. This ensures all students have access to nutritious and delicious meals.

    Technology’s Impact on School Catering

    • Online Ordering Systems: Online platforms allow parents to pre-order school lunches, reducing food waste and offering more control over their child’s dietary choices.
    • Cashless Systems: Cashless payment systems using biometric technology or RFID cards streamline lunch queues and improve efficiency in school canteens.
    • Kitchen Management Software: Software solutions allow catering companies to optimise stock control, plan menus, and manage staff schedules, resulting in increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

    The Future of School Catering

    As technology and dietary needs continue to evolve, we can expect to see the following trends in school catering solutions:

    • Personalisation: More personalised meal options might be available, allowing students to customise their meals based on preferences and allergies.
    • Sustainability: Focus on locally sourced ingredients, reduced food waste, and compostable packaging will likely become increasingly important.
    • Food Education: Integration of food education into the school curriculum could be paired with hands-on cooking workshops, fostering a healthy relationship with food amongst students.
    • Delivery Options: For geographically dispersed schools or those facing kitchen capacity limitations, partnerships with external delivery services providing pre-prepared healthy meals could emerge.

    Challenges and Opportunities

    While these changes hold promise for a healthier and more inclusive future for school catering, challenges remain:

    • Funding: Schools often operate under tight budgets, making it difficult to implement changes without additional financial support.
    • Staff Training: Catering staff may need additional training to prepare diverse and healthy meals, particularly those catering to specific dietary needs.
    • Parental Engagement: Encouraging parents to embrace healthier options and utilise online ordering systems requires ongoing communication and education efforts.

    Meeting the Needs of a Changing Landscape

    The UK school catering market is evolving to meet the needs of a health-conscious generation of students and parents. By embracing technology, focusing on dietary inclusivity, and working collaboratively with parents and schools, catering companies can play a vital role in fostering a generation of healthy eaters. With an emphasis on sustainability, food education, and continuous improvement, the future of school dinners looks brighter, offering a wider selection of delicious and nutritious options that fuel young minds and bodies throughout the school day.

    Are you looking for Catering Solutions for your organisation? The Education Forum can help!

    Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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