Spotlight on: Food

Spotlight on: Food

Mr Matthew O’Reilly, Head of Juniors

An invitation to dine

Parents of pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will have recently received an Invitation to dine at St Mary's Junior School, Cambridge during the Spring Term, and parents of pupils in Years 3 up to Year 6 will be similarly welcomed into school before the end of the academic year.

We trust that this opportunity has piqued parents’ interest. In preparation for these occasions I wanted to share some information about the nature of our pupils’ lunchtime experiences, which parents will be able to enjoy first-hand. We look forward to welcoming parents to what, we hope, will become an annual tradition.

We think that meal times are a fantastic opportunity for people to come together away from the busyness of the day – recharging batteries both physically but also by relaxing socially. As all pupils are provided with a cooked lunch at the Junior School, pupils take their lunch in the Junior School dining hall in two sittings, surrounded by their teachers, who are also eating with their peers, and supported by lunchtime assistants. Grace is said at the start of each sitting by pupils in rotation, bringing everyone together at the beginning of the meal.

Pupils pass through the serving area, where they are welcomed by our excellent team, consisting of Mrs Pauline Newman, the Junior School Chef, and catering assistants Mrs Heather Chesney and Mrs Lucia Frattesi. That the girls know the catering staff so well is important to us; the team knows when to encourage them to try something new or to have a bit more variety on their plates. The girls are sometimes even awarded House Points for being particularly adventurous!

The choice of food is excellent, and Pauline does a fantastic job in ensuring the ingredients are locally sourced where possible. All dishes are made fresh at school! Some of my favourite meals from the fortnightly menu are gammon with cauliflower cheese, and chicken curry with naan bread. Yesterday’s chicken pie was equally delicious!

To ensure there is something for every taste, as well as a good variety of nutritional options, we complement the hot food with a salad bar, to which pupils help themselves. Throughout the fortnight, pupils are also provided with different dessert options, on some days they will have a hot pudding – such as home-made apple crumble or Bakewell slices with custard; on other days there will be cold puddings – such as natural yogurt with home-made fruit compote; and there is fruit available every day, either in a fruit salad or in individual portions – such as pomegranate, apple slices, grapes and oranges.

Our Student Council is such an integral part of school life, and as in so many areas, we invite them to feed back to us on the choice of food that is available to them. We are always satisfied to hear their praise of the lunches, with their only (recurring) concern being a substantial lack of donuts on the menu. Long may they continue to campaign for what they want – but so too will we continue to avoid providing donuts as part of the lunch menu!

We have recently recommenced the girls’ cookery classes: once per term each year group will use the Senior School Food facilities for a cooking lesson with trained learning support assistants and their class teacher. These lessons are a great opportunity for pupils to gain an insight into the components of the food they eat, from which point they can begin to comprehend the nutritional value of different types of food. They are also an excellent opportunity for the girls to develop their food preparation skills. Before the half term break, pupils in 4H spent their cooking class learning how to make savoury pancakes ahead of Shrove Tuesday! We would be delighted to hear how the girls put their skills to the test during the half term break and whether anyone was catered for or found themselves with an extra-helpful kitchen assistant!

We hope the above has provided you with a greater insight into lunchtimes at the Junior School and hope, those that can make it, will enjoy dining with us.