School Lunch – another opportunity to practice IB Learner Profiles
By Zane Paula – Pavula, ISR Executive Assistant
Food is one of the most discussed topics in the school – especially at the beginning of the school year and especially for those who have chosen to have school lunches. Therefore, we would like to tell you more about some of the ISR Hot Lunch principles, challenges and improvements.
Lunch as a piece in the educational process
It’s important to start by saying that education at ISR takes place not only in the classrooms, but also elsewhere – including the school’s canteen. The food is an important topic from various aspects, so students’ experience with the meals at school shows following IB Learner Profile characteristics:
- Caring – do I care about my body and its needs? Do I care about others’ needs around me and elsewhere on the planet? Do I respect the food that I have available?
- Balanced – how much / what type of food I need and when? Are my meals timely and varied with diverse nutrients? Am I choosing food that is good for me?
- Principled – is the food I am eating also sustainable for the planet? Is this portion of food appropriate for me?
The school’s buffet lunch in the last 2 school years on K118 and V9 was set up in a way where students were also actively developing their skills in the school’s canteen.
Improvements in the 2019 – 2020 school year
In the last 2 years we had one type of meat without sauce and another type possibly with sauce (as students in general prefer meat without sauces)ve worked on researching the buffet lunch situation at school and in general we are putting on the menu dishes that the majority of students prefer. Moreover, these have been the main improvements based on the feedback from students, lunch ladies and parents:
- one type of salad without dressing (e.g. plain cucumbers or bell peppers)
more fruit-based desserts (as parents wanted healthier dessert options)
- for Preschool and Kindergarten students meat cut in smaller pieces
- Vegetarian and vegan options
- the weekly lunch menu is posted each week on the ISR website (https://isriga.lv/services/lunch/), so parents and students can check it along with Terms and Conditions and other useful lunch related information
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the ISR Hot Lunch Program provides students with hot lunches that students eat from the reusable polypropylene individual boxes in their classrooms. This change was needed to restrict the mingling between students as well as save room in the K118 and V9 campuses for more classroom space.
Based on the ISR Student Council’s suggestion back in March, 3 types of spices and mustard are offered in each classroom, so students can use them in moderation to personalize their lunch.
In March 2020, based on multiple suggestions from the ISR community members and support from the ISR Sustainability / Green Committee and school administration, ISR joined the world famous Meatless Monday global movement. This campaign started in 2003 and encourages people to reduce meat in their diet for their health and the health of the planet. The main idea is:
Eating less meat and more healthy plant-based foods can help reduce the incidence of chronic preventable diseases, preserve precious land and water resources, and combat climate change.
You can find more information about the initiative on their website.
We also asked for the ISR parents’ opinion regarding the Meatless Monday idea via the 3rd trimester sign up for the ISR Hot Lunch and most of the parents either did not comment on it or congratulated the ISR for such a great move in the sustainability direction.
Also, ISR students are researching animal related topics e.g. in the PYP Exhibition framework. For instance, in spring 2020 the 6th grade students Klara and Laura suggested ways for ISR to promote animal rights in the school’s canteen.
Change of the catering company
In the last school year and over the summer we looked into possibilities to improve the ISR Hot Lunch Program and possibly change the catering company Baltic Restaurants Ltd. Over the summer 2020 we sent the ISR proposal to 11 carefully selected catering companies and we got back only 4 offers. The biggest challenge from the catering company perspective is complicated logistics due to the lack of onsite kitchen on the ISR campuses and the need to deliver food for the buffet (in school year 2019 – 2020) or packed per portion (school year 2020 – 2021). Therefore, even big catering companies decided to refuse sending the ISR their offer and/or considerably higher price for portion was asked.
We continued working with the 4 companies and it resulted with blind food tasting in mid August where international and local staff members as well as the ISR students participated. One of the 4 shortlisted companies was also the Baltic Restaurants and we were surprised to see that they were absolute winners across various food taste aspects. Baltic Restaurants also had better Food and Veterinary Service records as well as a clear plan how to manage the packaging for ~ 200 lunch portions in sustainable packing. Therefore, we have decided to continue cooperation with our previous caterer for the ISR Hot Lunch, but we agreed about various ways to monitor the food quality and improve the service all together throughout the school year.
Challenges / things to keep in mind
- Amount of salt, sugar, fat, additives etc. in the food as well as the size of the portion is often the discussion topic. However, both matters are state regulated by the Cabinet Regulation No. 172 “Regulations Regarding Nutritional Norms for Educatees of Educational Institutions” and our catering company complies fully to these restrictions. School lunches get checked every 3 – 4 month by the Food and Veterinary Service and Baltic Restaurants have proven to be fully compliant with the state norms and regulations.
- At the moment we are offering packed warm lunch that is portioned instead of the buffet where students were able to have a choice between 2 options of side dishes, meat and salad. However, we are positive that eventually we will be able to offer the buffet style lunch again!
Feedback provides opportunity to improve
The catering topic is complicated and sensitive. We are totally aware that Home Lunch is an extra duty for busy parents, therefore we are doing our best to constantly monitor and improve the school lunch as much as possible in the given situation. Therefore, constructive feedback by students, parents and teachers are essential. Please send:
- any specific feedback about daily school lunch directly to the catering company via this link: https://ej.uz/surveyisr (ISR Admin gets weekly summary of this feedback)
- Any general feedback to the ISR Executive Assistant Zane (firstname.lastname@example.org) & as well as requests to sign up for the ISR Hot Lunch during the school year.
Thanks for reading & we are looking forward to your feedback!