Schools shake off Jamie effect from menu

The “Jamie Oliver effect” was finally laid to rest in Norfolk last night as the number of children eating school meals overtook those who did so before his campaign put many of them off.

The “Jamie Oliver effect” was finally laid to rest in Norfolk last night as the number of children eating school meals overtook those who did so before his campaign put many of them off.

The celebrity chef's TV horror stories about the poor quality of school dinner nutrition sparked an exodus by 13pc of primary school youngsters across the county.

Figures for the number of youngsters eating hot meals slumped from a pre-Oliver 20,500 at the beginning of 2005 to a low point of 17,800.

The numbers subsequently climbed, only to fall again in September 2006 when the government introduced strict new nutritional standards for all school meals.

Now, thanks to improved menus and support from Michelin starred Norfolk chef Galton Blackiston, the number of primary-aged children eating school meals each day is up to 21,000.

Alison Allen, commercial director catering for Norfolk County Services (NCS), said: “Norfolk school children tuck into some of the healthiest lunches in the country and have done for some time - eating locally cooked and fresh ingredients wherever possible.

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“It is because of this that I'm delighted that sales figures have increased to the level that they are presently at.”

Mr Blackiston, who visited a number of Norfolk schools to conduct food workshops and cook healthy school lunches, said: “It is great that parents across the county are once again trusting school dinners, it's the way it should be.

“It was all doom and gloom not so long ago, so I'm really delighted that all the hard work has paid off.”

Mr Oliver triggered unrest among parents and children in 2005 when he exposed some of the fat and additive-laden foods being served in canteens - with ingredients costing as little as 37p per head.

His targets included Bernard Matthews' Turkey Twizzlers, no longer produced by the Norfolk-based firm.

His campaign led the government to promise to improve the school meals' nutritional value, culminating last September with the new standards.

Mrs Allen said NCS had worked to win over parents and pupils with creative menus. Promotions had included a day when parents were able to join children for a school meal.

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