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‘Food for Thought’: A spotlight on the Catering Department

Catering Manager Matt Grime comments on the importance of fuelling our pupils’ minds with nutritious and wholesome foods, and explores how the catering offering continues to evolve and adapt…

The return to the Bryanston kitchen following the festive break always feels a little on the strange side. It’s the only time of the year that the Catering Department shuts down, and we tend to come back to find a few remnants of Christmas lying around, be it some tinsel hanging up, or some unopened cards in the office. It isn’t long, however, and our focus soon moves towards the Spring term. Christmas and the Autumn term already feel like a distant memory.

One thing that is consistent during the Spring term is the weather. It’s often the coldest and wettest period of the year, which in turn brings other issues such as colds and bugs among the Bryanston community. This year we are still living under the dark cloud of Covid, although fingers crossed this will be a thing of the past by the end of 2022.

While we can’t eliminate the spread of Covid 19, we’ve had measures in place to reduce the spread of it since our return in September 2020 in the dining hall and Cafe. These measures have continued to be monitored and modified over time, and we feel strongly that these have enabled us to continue to operate as ‘normally’ as we possibly could without putting pupils and staff at too great a risk.

We have adapted to ensure our enhanced cleaning routine helps to prevent the spread of Covid. Our style of service has also evolved during the pandemic. We no longer permit pupils or staff to help themselves at the salad bar, for example. There is a server who dishes up the plates for each individual.

Keeping our pupils hydrated has always been and continues to be hugely important. There is drinking water available throughout the day in the dining hall and we encourage pupils to have a water bottle with them which they can keep topped up.

The pandemic has also encouraged us to further review our food offering. Our dishes are now packed with even more vitamins and have high nutritional value, as we hope this will help boost pupils’ immune systems. We highlight foods that are packed full of vitamins and food that can boost the immune system and offer health benefits on posters that our pupils see every day when entering the dining hall. We aim to provide them with as much information as possible about the options available to them, so that they can make an informed and educated decision about their meal choices.

We have seen an increasing demand for vegetarian and vegan options among our pupil body. Veganuary has been hugely popular over the last few years and continues to be so for us this term. We have, since September, offered vegan options on our hot counters, with plenty of non-meat protein options also available on our ever-changing salad bar. Where possible our soup will always be vegetarian and free of dairy products. 

Pupil feedback is taken seriously and there are a few ways in which pupils can let us know what they like and what they don’t like. The School Food Committee has existed for a good number of years now and consists of representatives from each boarding house who meet regularly and feedback on the menus. Pupils are encouraged to feedback to their representatives before each meeting. Each meeting is lively, and the pupils are certainly not shy in coming forward. We use their feedback to help us tailor menus to suit their tastes. We often put some requests into action quickly after these meetings and pupils will often see a ‘you asked, we did’ sign in the food court to highlight the fact we do listen, and we do act on feedback.

Additional channels of feedback during the Autumn term included an online form and individual house meetings with D pupils. It was felt that the D year group often had differing tastes to older pupils and their voice may not often be heard as loudly as them.

We recognise the importance of ensuring new and younger pupils do not feel intimidated in what can be a busy, noisy, dining hall environment. The opportunity for them to provide feedback enables us to gauge their feelings and gives us the chance to respond and act on feedback. These meetings have, I feel, been beneficial and given the D year group a greater voice among the pupil body.

Tagged  Pastoral Care  Values