May 28 marks the National Nutrition Day, an initiative of the Spanish Federation of Nutrition, Food and Dietetics Societies (FESNAD) which aims to highlight the importance of acquiring healthy eating habits to the population. In this regard, there are many and of very varied origins the conditions that school kitchens must meet to meet the needs of students, whatever they may be.
The ELIS Villamartín school, located in the Alicante town of San Miguel de Salinas, therefore has up to five different daily menus, valued and supervised by a qualified nutritionist. The center makes the monthly proposal that this professional assesses following rigorous nutritional standards and recommendations in terms of the percentage that each menu should have of proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients, always taking into account the target audience.
In the event of any discrepancy in a menu, she makes the appropriate proposal and correction to always meet the most demanding requirements.
The school has a generic menu, another vegetarian, gluten-free, fish-free and lactose-free, but they also accommodate special diets due to allergies or intolerances, as well as for religious reasons, pork-free or beef-free diets, all following a scrupulous elaboration and conservation process to avoid cross-contamination of allergens.
Although most students enjoy the so-called "generic menu", in recent years there has been a considerable increase in requests for the vegetarian menu. "Children often imitate what they see at home, and it is clear that the vegetarian diet, with its different variants, is the one that has grown the most in our society and therefore in our families in recent years," says Rubén Lopez, chef from college.
Children are lovers, above all, of pre-cooked, battered and fried dishes, “but we strive to make a menu that is healthy and at the same time appetizing. It is, let's say, the eternal debate”, explains Rubén.
For example, children prefer fish that is presented to them fried, which is consumed more than if it is given boiled or baked. “That is the challenge that we and their own parents face at home: the necessary balance between what is most appetizing and what is most recommended, which means reducing fried foods and fats.”
A quality education requires a quality diet, and that is why at ELIS the best raw materials are used to be able to offer varied and balanced menus. The food is prepared in a homemade way in the school kitchen. In the center there is a great diversity of nationalities, more than 35, so their preferences tend to differ according to them, although they always coincide in preferring "fun" meals for them.
Educating and guiding students towards a healthy and varied diet with balanced menus is an objective that ELIS considers essential for the correct development and well-being of its students. The center has the latest technology in kitchen machinery to optimize the performance of both personnel and raw materials and energy efficiency. In addition, throughout the PSHE (tutoring) program teachers and students discuss healthy lifestyles, and this includes the importance of a balanced diet.
The kitchen and cleaning team is made up of 11 people, who feel that they are fully part of the school and responsible in their field for the education of the students. “After all, educating students to consume a varied diet, to give up whims for the benefit of their health, to enjoy eating what is best for them, is a benefit that they will incorporate throughout their lives at school and beyond. there".
“The menus are adapted to the seasons, being fresher during the months of September, May and June, always taking advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. We are lucky enough to live in an internationally recognized orchard area, and that should be noted in the menus”, highlights his chef, highlighting the productive capacity of Vega Baja.