School food revamp comes to boil


A Jamie Oliver-style healthy eating campaign operating in a Donegal community school is set to be extended nationwide.

The campaign to get hundreds of students to switch from burgers 'n' chips to healthy home-cooked lunches, using Department of Social and Family Affairs food subsidies started in the 600-pupil Pobail Scoil Cloich Cheann Fhaola in Falcarragh on a pilot basis last September.

The scheme is to be formally launched in the school today by Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan.

Some 400 healthy meals are being served daily in the school, and 15 other schools in the county are set to follow. The scheme is to expand this year to Leitrim and Sligo.

A department spokeswoman said plans for further expansion will depend on student response and available resources .

Falcarragh school will receive €145,00 worth of subsidies this year, based on 100 breakfasts, 400 lunches and 600 snacks daily. Concerns about obesity, together with the success of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's school dinner programme in Britain, prompted the parents' association and the student council in Falcarragh to investigate ways of promoting healthy food options, school principal Patsy McVicar told The Irish Times yesterday.

The board of management took out a loan to fund a €40,000 modern kitchen.Local company Get Fresh Catering Services, which had already installed 20 "healthy" vending machines in the northwest, has taken charge of it.

Consultant chefs and dieticians provide expert advice. Martin Lynch - who has worked with celebrity chefs Gary Rhodes and Nico Ladenis and was executive chef at the Michelin-listed Harveys Point Hotel in Co Donegal - has worked on the menus.

He liaised on the project with dietician Maeve O'Boyle and Carmel Doherty, head chef with Get Fresh Catering Services .

Mr McVicar conceded the subsidies from the Department of Social and Family Affairs to students who opt for the healthy menus have boosted their popularity.

Another school in the west - St Nathy's College, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon - has recruited Get Fresh to revamp its school meals.

"It became obvious in recent years that people wanted an alternative to fizzy drinks and crisps," explained Get Fresh director Billy McGill."We are trying to get the students to change their eating habits and educate them on making choices."