Waltham Forest’s school dinner revolution

The ex-Harrods food hall manager behind what goes on your child’s plate

By Marco Marcelline

Andrea Moore serves meals to kids at a primary school. Credit: Waltham Forest Council

Remember lining up in school for generous servings of creamy mash, chips, soggy diced carrots and, of course, chocolate sponge in pink custard? Whether you loved or loathed them, school dinners of yore aren’t coming back. 

And Andrea Moore, the development chef for Waltham Forest Catering, is making sure of that. Think of her as the ultimate school kitchen boss, who’s main mission is masterminding the meals for 46 primary schools throughout the borough. 

Andrea, who no doubt knows her capiscum from her cardamom, managed the food halls at Harrods and Selfridges for many years, before tucking into the entirely different demands of the school canteen back in 1999.

The school dinner visionaire has cooked up a new menu that includes days with only plant-based options and allergy-free days. After Andrea cooked up the menus, school council members decided their favourites on special taster days. 

The winning food fare includes jackfruit jambalaya, chickpea and sweetcorn wraps, vegan pizza, and puddings such as coconut jelly, chocolate brownies and lime and mint cookies. Meanwhile on allergen free days kids can opt for chickpea tikka masala, roasted pepper risotto, peri peri chicken, and coconut rice, which all contain none of the 14 major allergens. 

Andrea Moore, development chef for Waltham Forest Catering. Credit: Waltham Forest Council

Speaking on her menu, Andrea said: “Presentation is very important for the children; we all learn to eat with our eyes. Not only that but we want even young children to get an idea of the dining experience. It’s about helping young children to develop. If you put on a display like an owl or a hedgehog, children will see it and it will get excited. But most of all you need to encourage the children, not force them. With the little ones, they will say ‘I don’t like it, I don’t like it’ but their taste buds are changing all the time.”

In July, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse OBE, whose daughter died from an allergic reaction to sesame seeds that were not listed on a Pret a Manger baguette’s ingredients, visited a Waltham Forest primary school to see an allergen free day in action. Tanya praised Andrea’s “thrilling” intervention that “will be applauded by the hundreds of thousands of families across the UK who live in daily fear of their children suffering severe food allergic reactions”.

It seems that the kids are alright and probably better for the fact that chips aren’t on the menu every day anymore. As Andrea notes, “most of all, we listen to the children. They don’t just want chips every day, we need to credit them with a lot more than we do.”

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