"Preparing school menus with seasonal foods from organic production is a feasible alternative with great potential," as professionals in the educational and catering fields are discovering in the SEAE's specialized courses on organic school canteens.
There are already several companies, consolidated and newly created, which in their management of school canteens include and promote the consumption of organic food. But there is still no specialized training for the professionals who carry out this activity and, therefore, a lot of ignorance about the possibilities of elaborating sustainable menus, with high nutritional value and that comply with the regulations and the budgets contemplated. With the aim of training these professionals in organic food as well as providing the necessary tools for the design and preparation of school menus, the Spanish Society of Ecological Agriculture (SEAE) has organized a mixed training in Valencia, online and face-to-face, with 25 professionals linked to the field of catering and school education (nutritionists, chefs in catering and restaurants, members of AMPAs, canteen keepers ...) with a very positive final assessment in terms of content and practices learned and exchanged.
During the face-to-face sessions, the participants carried out interesting debates on theadvantages and disadvantages They are currently facing for the implementation and / or design of the menus, in addition to sharing the good practices they exercise in their kitchens, dining rooms and schools. Thus, they pointed out thatthere are “quite a few difficulties when it comes to presenting organic menus since the regulation indicates that the menu and recipes (with the exact ingredients) must be passed three months in advance. What happens is that, in organic farming, food production is seasonal and its harvest time may vary slightly due to issues, for example, related to climate changes. Thus, it may happen that some type of ingredient is missing and, although it could easily be substituted by another equivalent and seasonal one, these changes are not allowed, but rather you have to stick to the menus that were previously presented and resort to conventional foods ", explained several of the people attending the course.
Regarding the issue of inspections and controls, they agreed to point out that "there is great diversity in the interpretation of criteria by sanitary inspections that, finally, end up hindering the entire process towards an agroecological transition in dining rooms." Finally, they all agreed to highlight that"There is a great lack of awareness and ignorance on the part of parents, school authorities and society in general about organic agriculture and food", being perhaps one of the main obstacles that they find when betting on other alternatives. On the other hand, "with training of this type, the creation of networks and alliances between schools, companies and ecological producers are being promoted and, above all, the exchange of information and good practices that can continue to contribute towards this agroecological transition," they say from the organization of SEAE.
This training has been carried out in Madrid, now in the Valencian Community and in September, in the Canary Islands. It takes place within the framework ofdraftAgroeco Qualify- Improvement of competences in agroecology of theEmployaverde program of theBiodiversity Foundation of theMinistry for Ecological Transition with co-financing fromEuropean Social Fund (FSE), whose objective is that workers of different profiles (production, processing, certification…) can improve their qualifications and professional skills in agroecology and adapt their knowledge to the current situation in the sector.
“Eat the rainbow”: healthy eating strategies for children
How to make children eat vegetables and not put them off their plate when they eat at school? Why should legumes have more presence on menus? In what way can we educate the little ones to follow a healthy diet inside and outside of school?
Mª Dolores Raigón, expert researcher on the nutritional quality of food and president of SEAE; Together with Pilar Galindo from the La Garbancita Ecológica consumer cooperative, a sociologist and agroecological artisan baker, they have been in charge of teaching the practical part of this cooking course and discovering the various strategies and initiatives that allow us to bring together the benefits of organic food can bring in dining rooms.
Through the experimentation of the senses (sounds, tastes, smells, textures…) the students have learned about quality and food safety, nutritional values, food preservation and much more. For example, comparative tastings were carried out between organic and conventional foods (carrots, meat, sugar, eggs ...) as well as the preparation and tasting of various preparations with organic foods that could be included in school menus.
Thus, starting with the "rainbow" of colors in which the fruit well presented on a plate becomes and that makes it much more appetizing and fun for the little ones, organic beef burgers were cooked, other vegan ones made with rice and lentils, plus a series of cold spreads made with flax or sesame seeds. The autochthonous varieties of foods such as tomatoes (with more than 7 varieties present) or squash also played an important role. Undoubtedly, the perceptions gathered among the participants after this training indicate that there is a lot of potential to consider the introduction of organic food in schools.