Penicuik school project’s food for thought

Charlotte O'Farrell, Harry Donnelly, canteen supervisor Debbie Cochrane and Mandy Mitchelmore
Charlotte O'Farrell, Harry Donnelly, canteen supervisor Debbie Cochrane and Mandy Mitchelmore

Being chosen to spearhead a government education pilot about food in schools is already paying dividends for Penicuik High School cluster.

The project, which is part of the national Better Eating, Better Learning scheme, coupled with a council-wide secondary school meals initiative has seen a rise in the number of pupils enjoying healthy lunches in Penicuik High’s canteen.

Canteen supervisor Debbie Cochrane said: “Numbers of pupils eating here is definitely up in the last two months.”

New offers, available across all Midlothian secondary schools, mean pupils can tuck into homemade soup with fresh bread or a main meal followed by a healthy fruit pot and drink for just £2.

“A lot of my friends who used to go out at lunchtimes are now staying in and saying things like ‘oh great, it’s Tuesday – curry day’,” said S6 pupil Charlotte O’Farrell, who sits on the Better Eating, Better Learning school committee along with fellow S6 pupil, Harry Donnelly.

Pupils, canteen staff, teachers, the Home Economics department run by Mandy Mitchelmore, and the cluster primary schools are all involved in the programme, which is due to run for three years.

Home Economics and the school catering team drew up a survey, which Harry and Charlotte used to question 60 pupils about their views on school meals. The results have helped shape a change in the menu.

Ms Mitchelmore added: “We have done a massive amount of work in HE and the Food For Thought Project (cooking with the primaries). This, along with the work done on developing a kitchen garden in our school, healthy eating and cooker skills, has been fantastic.”

Councillor Derek Rosie (SNP), said: “Research shows that making healthy food choices impacts on all aspects of our lives, from giving us more energy, to protecting us from illnesses and helping us concentrate at school.

“This evidence-based programme is a fantastic example of everyone in the Penicuik schools cluster pulling together to make meals healthy, fun and even more nutritious.”