Children in developing countries and economies in transition, fail to reach their full cognitive, physical, disease-resistance, social and economic potential as a result of inadequate nutrient intakes, combined with poor hygiene and poor availability of clean drinking water. However, at the same time, elite children in developing countries, children of middle class families in economies in transition and children from lower social classes in developed countries are likely to become obese, which will make them prone to a range of disease later on in life.
In many countries, school lunch is a major part of a children’s diet at school days. Today, different countries around the world have regulations or recommendations in place that intend to regulate the food and nutrient intake of children. Stricter regulations are being implemented for vending machines in schools and some countries even have specific legislation in place for the nutritional composition of school meals.
Other parts of the world are getting challenged with inadequate nutrient intakes and poor hygiene of school kitchens and canteens. As Unilever Food Solutions we help schools and school caterers to overcome their current day challenges so that they are able to deliver healthier food for lunch that is also very tasty and a pleasure to eat for the children.
In Thailand, school lunch is a major part of a children’s diet at school days. However, school lunches do not always provide adequate nutrient levels and often lack variety. To promote healthy school lunch planning, Unilever Food Solutions Thailand along with school partners initiated The Thai School Bus project. It provides nutrition training to teachers and school canteen staff in primary schools to increase their culinary skills and help them to create new and popular menu items that fit within their budgets.
The programme outcome was very positive and their impact could easily be increased by scaling up activities in this area. There is a role for the food industry to partner with schools and together to provide and promote nutritious, delicious and enjoyable food for children.
In the UK, school caterers struggle with daily challenges ranging from child obesity (one in three 11 year olds are overweight or obese and many pack lunches are filled with unhealthy food), fewer students that eat school lunches (they have to compete against take-aways, chippies and sweet shops for students lunch money) to ever stricter nutritional targets set by the government and increasing costs of food ingredients.
Unilever Food Solutions initiated Eatz4U, a branded solution package, to help school caterers provide healthy, tasty and cost-effective school meals in line with challenging government regulations and limited skill. This tailor made solution package provides operational support to help drive production efficiently, simple, tasty & nutritious recipes that fit within a balanced menu cycle and help caterers to meet the standards set by the government and materials to make the schools more welcoming and attractive for children while also engaging teachers and parents…all on an on-going basis.