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Posted on 14 April 2021

The Lunch Boxes : How Did We Do ?

Written by Kevin Smith, coordinator of the Canteen working group

Running the canteen service is by no means an easy task in the times of COVID restrictions. Taking into consideration the health measures imposed by the Belgian government, after the Carnival vacation the APEEE board found itself in a situation when it could provide no meals at all in the canteen to secondary students, warm meals in the canteen to nursery students and cold meals delivered to the classrooms for primary students. The challenge was now to devise a lunchbox menu for primary students so that the food would comply with all the health regulations (stay cold and be delivered in classrooms) and be tasty for our little clients.

In that we relied on the competence of our canteen staff and on your feedback for which we asked in our two surveys we held in March.

The article below provides an overview of the outcome of this work, the results of the surveys and their impact on our menus.

In planning for the lunch boxes Paul Orlovski, the Canteen manager and Xavier De Beys, our chef de cuisine created weekly menus with sufficient variety so that primary children receiving them would not be bored eating the same type of food each day. It was decided to have a sandwich one day and a cold salad the next so in a normal week there would be 2 days of sandwiches and 2 days of cold salads.

In total there were 721 children in subscribed to receive lunch boxes whereas normally there are 923 who are subscribed for warm meals which exceeded our expectations.

After 3 weeks we ran the first survey and asked for their feedback from the primary children and their parents and looked forward to reviewing the results. Of the 721 registered 495 completed the survey so around 68%, not bad. We also allowed non-subscribed parents to complete the survey and 59 did so.

We wanted to know did we get the lunch box menus right? Did the children enjoy the food? Did they eat all the food? What did they not like? What changes would they like and would they like to resubscribe after the Easter vacation etc.?

The results spoke for themselves!

The quantity of food was ok but not always to their taste with too many exotic flavours (herbs, seasoning & spices etc.).

The salads were too cold and sometimes the bread too hard or they did not have enough time to eat.

The problem with the salad’s temperature is Belgian regulations state that salads (cold food) must be stored at a maximum of 4oC and eaten with 30 minutes from when it is removed from the cold storage. So, no time for it to warm up.

The average mark for whether the food was liked was 2.78 out of 6 and those interested in subscribing after the Easter vacation was 57%.

Based on this we immediately decided to change the menu for the final week to sandwiches only with simpler and more child friendly filling. Along with a piece of fruit, and a dairy or biscuit and as it was Easter a mini chocolate egg.

For the final Thursday and Friday before the Easter vacation the maternelle children also received lunch boxes in their classrooms as defined by the change in the COVID regulations.

We now wanted to know if the children preferred the new lunch boxes menus, so just before the Easter vacation we ran a second survey to find out and included the maternelle children.

The result of the survey showed that we had made the lunch boxes tastier for the children.

The average mark for whether the children liked the food was now 3.7 out of 6 and for the primary only children this was 4.1 out of 6 a great improvement.

The average mark for being satisfied with the lunch boxes was 3.8 out of 6.

And those interested in subscribing after the Easter vacation was 69%.

So how did we do, well you decide. One thing is for sure: we must continue to improve the lunch boxes menus for as long as they are required to deliver food to our children.

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