Good food for young minds

09 June 2014 - 02:02
By Shenaaz Jamal and Penelope Mashego
QUICKIE: Thai beef salad and lamb schwarma, packed with flair and masses of flavour
QUICKIE: Thai beef salad and lamb schwarma, packed with flair and masses of flavour

Tuck shops that specialise in selling pupils healthy food are gaining in popularity.

Children at private schools can now munch on "proper meals" such as chicken à la king, beef stroganoff, salads, pastas and hot soups.

Roedean School, in Parktown, Johannesburg, has asked upmarket grocer Thrupps to take over the running of its tuck shop. The school's executive head, Mary Williams, said: "Nutrition in the tuck shop is increasingly important. Now pupils can get a hot lunch every day."

St Teresa's School, in Rosebank, Johannesburg, decided to offer something different at its tuck shop because "we want to introduce the girls to healthy eating," said Principal Jean Carey.

Carey said the school surveyed its pupils on menus - and they came out in favour of junk food.

But "we are trying to educate them about junk food and how bad it is," said Carey.

The Thrupps tuck shop offers a range of affordable healthy meals. A butternut-and-broccoli pasta bake, a mini chicken-and-mushroom pasta bake and a vegetable quiche will each cost R15.99.

At R20, sandwiches are also an option for pupils who prefer quick, convenient but healthy food. The whole-wheat sandwiches have fillings such as rare roast beef, sun-dried tomato, and marmalade.

The New York Reuben sandwich has pastrami slices and sliced Emmenthal cheese.

Vegetarians are catered for with Mexican beans with salsa sandwich wraps, and California sandwiches (cream cheese with chopped chives).

The meals can be washed down with a variety of drinks, including bottled water and fruit juice.

An aloe vera drink goes for R12 and vitaminised water is R14. A Valpré will set a pupil back by R6.

Health bars such as Jungle Oats cranberry light cost R7.

According to a recent study published in the Lancet medical journal, South Africa has the highest rate of obesity in Southern Africa.

"Outsourcing tuck shop services is beneficial [to pupils] as long as the schools meet nutritional specifications," clinical dietician Alison Lang said.

Thrupps CEO Chris Keene said: "We started advising and assisting schools with tuck shops about 15 years ago."

The tuck shop menu changes from school to school.

"It includes mostly fresh fruit, rolls, salads and hot soups in winter. Some of the basic meals include beef stroganoff and chicken à la king," said Keene.

Italian restaurant Nino's provides tuck shop services to Crawford College, Johannesburg. The food served has reduced sugar, and carbonated drinks and sweets are not on the menu. Pupils have options such as pastas, salads, burgers, soups and toasted sandwiches.

"Crawford's standards are very similar to ours [Nino's]," said Nino's CEO Nick Kokkoris.

He said the restaurant approached the school 12 years ago and has been providing it with tuck shop services since.

He said that healthy eating at schools has become "increasingly important" over the past few years.