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Norse Catering pledges to improve primary school menu development

School meals supplier, Norse Catering joined forces with Norfolk Children’s Services on a project to improve school menus as well as helping children learn about the importance of health and nutrition.

Flourish is a children and young people partnership strategy by Norfolk Children’s Services working to make Norfolk the best place to grow up in and a county where children can flourish. They asked local businesses and organisations to make pledges.

Norse Catering was one of the earliest adopters of the pledge initiative and has helped Norfolk’s children to flourish as a result. Norse Catering made a pledge to consult with schoolchildren on what they wanted to see on school menus and empower them to make positive choices about their health.

Clare Jordan, marketing manager for Norse Catering, said: “It has been my pleasure bringing Norse Catering's Flourish Pledge to life! It is so important to listen to our young customers and have engaging conversations about school meals as well as food, health and nutrition.”

Norse Catering made a pledge in the summer to make student councils an integral part of their primary school menu development. Their approach was two-fold:

> Running taste tests of recipes and new dishes with children whilst in the final planning stages of new menus (they change twice a year)
> Business Account Managers to attend as many student council meetings as possible across their 180 primary schools all year round to engage with children and find out what they enjoy on the menu, what they don’t enjoy and what they would like to see on the next menu.

This is then collated centrally and shared with the menu team and promotions teams so Norse Catering can see ways in which they can accommodate requests, look for patterns and consider ideas from the children.

Before the Norse Catering team finalised their Autumn/Winter menu, they ran taster sessions with children from a few of their sites.

According to their research 84% of children liked their new homemade veggie burger and 77% of the children would choose it on the menu. Of the children who tried the new mixed berry sponge cake 100% liked the taste and 92% would choose it on the menu.

From the student council sessions, Norse Catering noted they had an ‘overwhelming’ number of requests for tacos so in October they ran a successful street food menu.

Jordan added, “In terms of impact, we have been delighted to have this engagement opportunity in our schools. It has enabled us to sense-check our menu ideas and understand how tastes are evolving for our young customers.

“It has also opened up discussions around healthier choices and provided context for children about how we create our menus to ensure they are nutritionally balanced. Children and young people are at the heart of school meals so it is vital they are part of our decision-making.”

(image: National Education Union)