Today (Thursday the 12th of March 2020) is the 8th annual International School Meals Day.
Ok, I admit, unless you’re a food writer like me, or have some other invested interest in international school meals or feeding children, this annual celebration of all that is wonderful about the humble school meal might have passed you by so far.
So, let me tell you all about it!
International School Meals Day began in 2013 after American and British experts had shared information about the successes and challenges around childhood nutrition and healthy eating habits both in school and at home.
It is organised by a British charity, Children in Scotland, who aim to bring together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves.
The event brings together a wide variety of teachers, students, policy makers, schools, communities, charities, nutritionists and school cooks with an aim of raising awareness of good nutrition for all children regardless of their circumstances.
School meals have the potential to ensure that children, from all backgrounds, are healthy, learn well, thrive and achieve their full potential.
This year’s theme is ‘sharing our successes’, where young people are encouraged think about their favourite foods, nutrition projects they’ve been part of, where their food comes from, who provides it, who cooks it and who serves it.
The main idea is to celebrate the rich diversity of recipes which exist in every classroom. Every bite of food we consume has a farm to fork story.
Many countries have now made school feeding a national priority. In Africa, over 30 million children now benefit from school feeding programmes and this is changing the lives of millions of people - especially girls - unlocking their full potential. Guatemala, which had one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in children, recently introduced a new school-feeding law which has seen an increased government budget spend per child each year since it was introduced.
School meals ensure that children are healthy and well-nourished, enabling them to attend school, learn, thrive and fulfil their potential as adults.
School feeding programmes can also boost rural and local economies as small scale food producers find new markets for their produce. Community members, often women, can also earn an income by preparing school meals for children.
Preliminary results of a Harvard University analysis show that globally, for every dollar spent on school meals programmes $20 US can be returned.
Why not get involved – if you’ve got children of your own you could start up a family discussion about what their favourite school meal is, where they think their food comes from and how important it is to have a balanced, nutritious diet. Encourage your local school to get involved too!
Despite being Scottish, my younger two children’s most favourite school lunch is Scottish smoked salmon and avocado maki sushi. Find the recipe below.
Smoked Salmon & Avocado Maki Sushi Recipe
250 grams sushi rice
330 ml water
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
3 sheets nori seaweed
100 grams smoked salmon
Rinse your sushi rice under cold water for several minutes until the water runs clear. Place the rice and water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as the rice begins to boil, put the lid on, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes without removing the lid. After ten minutes, switch the heat off and leave the lid on for a further 25-30 minutes with the lid on.
Meanwhile, put the vinegar, sugar and salt into a small jar and shake until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
When the rice is done, stir in the vinegar mixture and leave to cool completely.
Take a sheet of nori seaweed and place it on a sushi rolling mat, shiny side down.
Spoon 1/3 of the rice mixture onto the seaweed, and using your fingers dipped in cold water, arrange the rice so that it covers the seaweed. Take care to leave a 1 centimetre gap at the top.
Arrange your smoked salmon, sliced avocado and chives in a thin layer 1/3 of the way up the rice.
Using your sushi rolling mat, fold over the bottom edge of the seaweed and roll the entire thing up into a thick cigar shape.
Use a finger dipped in cold water to seal the edge of the seaweed shut, wrap in clingfilm and chill until needed.
Repeat with the remaining two sheets of nori seaweed.
Cut each roll into 8 pieces and serve with soy sauce.
To get involved with this year’s International School Meals Day tweet @intschoolmeals and use the hashtag #ISMD2020 You can also visit www.internationalschoolmealsday.com for more information.