School children are being encouraged to try new foods, as part of a North Yorkshire campaign to persuade families to take up school meals as an affordable, healthy option.

In particular, the North Yorkshire County Council campaign aims to make sure families eligible for free school meals take up the offer as the rising cost of living is felt.

Our school meals service is also tackling barriers to families opting for school meals. This includes encouraging primary-aged children to try new foods by offering taster portions.

At Thirsk Community Primary School, kitchen staff see it as part of their role to get children to try new foods – and their approach is proving successful.

Luan Van Huet, of the administration team, said: “One reason some families don’t opt for school meals is that parents can be concerned their child won’t eat anything on the menu, or will only eat certain foods.

“Sometimes a child just wants jacket potatoes or sandwiches for dinner. Staff will often pop a little bit of something like cheese and broccoli pasta on the side so they can try it. If they like that, they can try it the next time as well.

“Another reason a child may be reluctant to try new food is that it might be unfamiliar to them – we can help with that, too. For instance, when we introduced Quorn nuggets, we called them Quorn dippers, as we know a lot of children like chicken dippers from McDonald’s. They all realised they liked them and now it’s a popular dish.”

Our school meals service also makes sure food preparation for children with allergens is approached seriously.

Mrs Van Huet explained that this includes keeping charts of each child with allergies and their allergens. A record is kept of everything the child eats, so if any child falls ill a full record is available.

Thirsk Primary School pupil Erin, in Year 2, said she had lots of favourite meals in school: “I like the puddings because they are different every single day and sometimes they are really healthy, like apples.

“My favourite meal is pizza, because of the shape and taste and the crust is quite soft and my second favourite meal is lasagne and my third favourite is spaghetti bolognese with extra meat balls.”

Ridley, in Year 6, said: “We have a different meal every day; every Friday it’s something to do with fish and there’s plenty of other options if you don’t like the school dinner that day; you can have a baked potato or sandwich and the fillings and potato toppings change every day.”