Parents at Clore Shalom Primary School have expressed anger at a new “pescatarian” menu being introduced in January, saying it offers fish only four times every three weeks and is “overloaded with carbs”.
Several parents, who all wished to remain anonymous, voiced their concern to Jewish News this week after headteacher Karen Cohen told them meat was now off the menu, in what many said was a “cost-cutting exercise”.
The price of school meals at the 215-pupil Radlett school, which was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted earlier this year, will remain the same at £2.80, but parents were concerned about “an obvious lack of protein” in the menus from new provider HCL.
On its website, HCL says it is “passionate about fresh, local and seasonal ingredients that help us to provide dishes that are not only popular with students but also comply with healthy eating standards and guidelines”.
Yet parents said its sample menu included several offerings of pasta, jacket potatoes, potato wedges, macaroni cheese, herby bread, baguettes, sweet potato slices, pizza, rice, and chips, much of it offered with cheese as a topping.
Cohen, who said she had consulted, told parents that HCL “use nutritionists to help revise their menus to ensure that pupils are offered a healthy lunch each day”.
She added that the school was “now able to offer milk and dairy foods to the menu, along with fish, eggs and other sources of protein”, with the kitchen being “deep cleaned” over the winter break, with new kitchenware provided.
Several parents were unconvinced, however. “It’s all carbs,” said one. “They’re playing it like it’s healthy but there’s no protein, it’s horrific. They tried to do this two years ago but backed down. This time they say they consulted but not with us.”
Another parent said the shift to pescatarian menus had been “a complete surprise,” adding that government legislation – specifically the Requirements for School Food Regulations 2014 – required schools to at least offer meat three times a week.
Another said: “It is worrying that cheesy pasta dishes served with additional starchy food such as potatoes seem to make regular appearances on the lunch menu.
“Our worry is that children who do not like the meat imitation products such as Quorn, which are themselves often highly processed and high in salt, will make an unhealthy choice of carbs. This is not the kind of food awareness we expect from a good educational establishment.”
In response, Cohen said: “We are aware that a small number of parents are concerned about the change… We have engaged with them. By and large we have an excellent relationship with our parent body, the vast majority of whom support and trust us to make decisions in the best interest of their children and the school.”
She added that the change itself came about because of “a prolonged period of complaints from a significant number of parents and a failure by our previous catering supplier to address and resolve problems,” praising HCL as “one of the most trusted and experienced school meal suppliers” in Hertfordshire.
“Whilst we aim to please every parent and child with the food options available each day, we appreciate that this is not always possible, so also allow an option for packed lunches, something that very few Jewish schools do.”
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