School lays a yellow-brick road to McDonalds

This headline sounds like it’s come straight out of that TV show where comedians come up with the unlikeliest headlines they can think of. But, no, the story is true. It’s virtually impossible to render me speechless (as anyone who knows me well will tell you) but this almost did the job.

Try and get your head around this: The head teacher and the governing body of Brynteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend have given their backing to a path along the A48 – a route which, every lunchtime, takes 200 students out of school and into the local McDonalds.

So while companies, food organisations and government bodies are working hard to keep the Jamie Oliver flame burning by offering delicious, nutritious food to young people every day, this school seems to be virtually condoning a daily diet of junk food for its students.

OK, of course there is a safety issue here. If students are at risk from traffic on a busy road, of course they must be protected. But at what cost, if the school cannot keep them in its own restaurant at lunchtime? The key issue is not the condoning of the pathway, it is about the food the school is offering its students.

By now, most of us have the message loud and clear: Eat at McDonalds every day and you will put yourself at serious risk of obesity, heart disease and insulin-resistance. (Despite recent gestures towards healthier options, McD’s menus are relatively high in fat, sugar and calories, and relatively low in fibre and nutrients).

But surely we don’t need to push these arguments any more do we? I thought education in this country had turned a corner and that all schools had healthy eating high on the agenda. Evidently not.

But even with the most enlightened views on healthy eating, schools will never succeed in just telling students what to eat and where to eat it. If youngsters think the food at their school is ‘pants’, of course they’ll trot down the path to Maccas. And actually, I wouldn’t want to stop them.

Surprised to hear me say that? You shouldn’t be. At Cucina we’ve always been adamant that coercion is not the way forward. The ‘outraged of Brigend’ brigade need to keep that in mind before they go tearing up any pathways from schools to fast-food outlets.

At Cucina we know the winning formula and we’re proving it works every single day. It’s this:

Produce good, wholesome healthy food, but make it yummy too!

Not rocket science maybe, but it takes dedicated hard work and commitment to achieve. Our consumers are not just school kids to us. They are customers, and we respect their right to choose. If you give them food they like, they will choose to eat it.

This belief at the absolute heart of our business brand, it’s the secret to our success, and it’s how we’ve manage to achieve 40%-80% turnarounds in the uptake of school dinners in all the schools we operate in.

Schools whose students are choosing McD’s over their own restaurants must sit down and answer some serious questions – the most important one being: how can we influence their food choices?

After that they must take a detailed look at the food and service they currently offer, asking why their students are rejecting it in such numbers. That’s the planning stage for another yellow-brick road – the one that will lead students into their own school restaurant.

Till next time,

Steve

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