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Improving school meals – "We all have to come to one table"

Too bland, too boring. School lunches often stay on the plate, and in the worst case end up in the trash. But there is also another way of doing things, as a number of school cafeterias and projects show.

Berlin – The German School Catering Network (DNSV) has been awarding the “Golden Plate” for almost ten years. After a corona-related break last year, it’s that time again today.

One of the many school canteens in Germany is honored because it attaches particular importance to a healthy, sustainable and tasty diet. There are many great examples, says DNSV chairman Michael Polster. “But in the past few years we have not managed to anchor the topic of nutrition as a cross-cutting issue in all school laws.” However, this is necessary in order to actually achieve a change in nutrition policy.

Joint effort required

Diet must be integrated into everyday school life, said Polster. There are numerous projects nationwide that aim to do this. “However, there is a lack of consistency and sustainability.” The association is supported by star and TV chef Stefan Marquard, who campaigns for healthy eating in schools with his “Star kitchen makes school” project. “We all have to come to one table and move something together,” emphasizes Marquard. Child, parents, teacher, school, caterer – everyone is asked. “But in the end we will not get any further without politics.” The cook and Green Party politician Sarah Wiener believes it is important that the subject of nutrition is given more weight in the training of teachers.

Marquard goes to schools to cook with children and young people – and to teach them how to enjoy healthy eating. His concern: Show what cooking means. Show how to handle food. And: encourage the children to “infect their parents”.

Born in Franconia, he also turns to caterers. “We have to support them so that they can cook regionally and sensibly on a small budget,” he emphasizes. The chef sees a crucial aspect here. Because the price pressure on the caterers is great. The chef therefore looked at manufacturing processes – and remembered earlier approaches. Instead of blanching vegetables with water, for example, he activates them with a salt and sugar mixture. “That saves energy and water,” he says.

Wiener turns to teachers and parents

His colleague Wiener has also been committed to healthy nutrition for children for years; she has a foundation named after her. “Because I want every child to eat well,” she says. In order to reach as many children as possible, she and her team mainly turn to educational institutions: “The core of our work is training for specialists and teachers from daycare centers, elementary schools and extracurricular learning locations.” More than 26,000 teachers have taken part so far.

Your project “I can cook!” Is aimed at three to ten year olds. According to the foundation, more than a million daycare and school children have taken part since 2015. And here, too, it is a matter of including the parents – and increasingly relying on regional foods. For example, cook Wiener works with the Senate in Berlin on projects such as “From the field to the mouth!” Or “On the trail of my school lunch!”, Which includes visits to organic farms in the region.

In Berlin, under Red-Red-Green 2019, a free meal was introduced for primary school students in grades one to six. Under the motto “Berlin eats like this”, a strategy is also to be developed in which aspects such as regionality and sustainability play a role overall. dpa

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