New breakfasts will see no more toast and cereal for the kids at Highfield School in Letchworth

Karen is presented with a cheque for £200 for the British Heart Foundation. Picture: David Barlow

Karen is presented with a cheque for £200 for the British Heart Foundation. Picture: David Barlow - Credit: Archant

I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been a big fan of school breakfasts.

The new breakfast options include avodcado, bacon and eggs with toasted cheese soldiers, rolled croq

The new breakfast options include avodcado, bacon and eggs with toasted cheese soldiers, rolled croque monsieur, date and cinnamon bloomer, breakfast smoothies, banana split granola. Picture: David Barlow - Credit: Archant

So with a dose of trepidation, I headed to Highfield School in Letchworth last week after being invited by Lead Association for Catering in Education – a bit of a mouthful in itself – to sample a new breakfast menu for secondary schools.

The visit formed part of National School Meals Week, but initially I was taken to the school gym – not the canteen.

There students, representives and some teachers were warming down after joining Karen Robinson – a member of LACA’s marketing team – in a portion of the marathon she had been running.

A new addition to the awareness week, Karen’s daily marathon – involving two 13.1-mile stints – was her idea of getting children engaged in exercise and healthy eating.

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I caught up with Karen in the canteen as she recouperated from her fifth half marathon of the week with a spot of breakfast from the school’s new range.

She said: “It’s all about what you eat. With all this running I have to make sure I eat something good and healthy to keep my energy up.

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“We were trying to think of a theme for this year and, as running is my passion, I said why don’t we get as many children as we can excited about running alongside healthy eating.”

Representatives from Hertfordshire Catering Ltd were also there to officially launch their new breakfast concept, working hand in hand with NSMW.

The new range moves away from the traditional school breakfast club menu of a slice of toast or some cereal, and towards trendy options you would find in a high street deli.

The mouth-watering variety of breakfast foods included avocado, bacon and eggs with toasted cheese soldiers, rolled croque monsieurs, date and cinnamon bloomers, breakfast smoothies, banana split granola and vegetarian breakfast bruschettas. HCL is set to introduce this new concept to 45 secondary schools across Hertfordshire.

HCL’s head of operations, Stuart Clarke, was also cooling down after the run when I spoke to him about the motivation behind promoting healthy eating within schools.

He said: “As caterers for schools, we are motivated by healthy eating and the marathon idea really lends itself to our new range. We have been wanting to get involved, and so I decided to get involved with the marathon. Some of the students that came along said that they run on their own which is great to see.

“Within HCL we have got our own development chefs – one of them is here today – who are promoting healthy eating in breakfasts, which brings in line what we’re doing here.”

As well as the breakfast menu, a new lunchtime offering has begun being served up to primary schools by HCL since half term.

The new menus provide students with at least three meal choices each day and include new dishes such as a sweet chilli chicken tortilla with vegetable rice, a minced lamb slice with creamed potatoes, fish bites made with healthy oily fish and low fat chips or pasta, and a fish-finger wrap with the same side options.

There are also vegetarian options which include a veggie burrito with pasta, and vegetable cobbler with diced potatoes, as well as classIcs such as roast beef, macaroni cheese and pizza.

Seasonal vegetables and salads are available every day and a choice of desserts, including fresh fruit, is always on offer.

Sugar content has reduced significantly, with HCL buying almost seven tonnes less to go in meals. With each menu change HCL introduces seasonal changes to the meals, in addition to trying out new recipes.

Lin O’Brien, chief executive of HCL, said: “We’ve launched this delicious new breakfast range in all the secondary schools we work with across Hertfordshire and beyond, as we know that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day.

“We’re already providing tasty, healthy and high-quality lunches, but a good breakfast can really set up students for the day ahead – improving memory and concentration as well as improving energy levels.

“We know there’s a lot of competition for young people’s attention and that’s why across our range we’re offering the sort of appetising, high-quality food that traditionally you would only have found in cafés and restaurants.”

Even with a hearty helping of school breakfast skepticism, I find it hard to argue with that.

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