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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A good news story about healthy hot meals in some rural schools: - set up by Tim Crabtree and Local Food Links

Recipe for success

Extract from Guardian article:

"As Dorset this week stages a celebration of local food - a reflection of the growing interest in local, organic produce that began with the rise of farmers' markets - the man who helped kick-start this trend has turned to something more significant than catering for the rural rich.

Tim Crabtree set up the West Dorset Food and Land Trust, which initiated the farmers' markets, but now runs Local Food Links, a community-benefit society that cooks and delivers hot meals to schools around Bridport.

Crabtree says the impetus behind Bridport's LFL was that while visitors and retired people could afford to shop at farmers' markets, ordinary working people struggled. "We live in a low-wage economy, and so our remit has been to address the fact that local and organic food has become an expensive niche market."

Almost two years ago, in response to the Jamie's School Dinners series on TV, the government announced that all schools should serve hot meals by September 2008. But amid all the fuss about "scrotum burgers" and Turkey Twizzlers, one fact was overlooked: 25 years ago, under the last Conservative government, all the primary schools in Dorset got rid of their kitchens.

The county council thought microwavable ready meals would be the only option if schools were to reinstate hot lunches, but companies refused to tender for the job, saying they were unable to do it profitably due to the large number of small schools spread across such a rural area.

LFL stepped in, initially offering hot, freshly made soup to two primary schools. Ruth Clench, headmistress of Bridport county primary school, says: "There was a really good take-up, and a superb part of the experiment was that some of the children helped make it. That persuaded other children to try it." Laura Wood, whose daughters attend the school, says: "Before, my kids had only ever eaten Heinz tomato soup, and it encouraged me to make soup at home, too."

Encouraged by the success of the soup kitchen, Crabtree expanded the operation in April to provide hot meals two days a week to eight schools. He hopes that by Easter next year all eight schools will be supplied with hot meals five days a week. The target is 95,000 meals, which would take the area to the current national average of a 40% take-up.

What has helped in getting children to accept a wide range of vegetables is that they get involved in choosing them. LFL holds tasting sessions for the children and their parents, pays close attention to their comments, and also sneaks extra vegetables into their meals - for instance, by pureeing butternut squash and adding it to tomato sauce (a Jamie Oliver recipe)."

Lose weight and improve your health in many ways without drugs or expense by eating less salt! Go on! - Try it! - You will feel so much better!

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