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Canteens of contention

The recent suspension of a school caterer following a hospitalisation of 30 children in Al Ain puts school canteens in the spotlight


It&rsquo ends;}s 1.on September 5 and the 5 30am, 000 square foot kitchen of the educational school canteen operator Slices reaches its busiest. Morning shift of the 24-hour operation in Al Quoz 4 the first, Dubai, has some 20 staffers, of a complete strength of 220, going about their tasks.

Executive chef Gee Mears is along with the overall game as she suits a tall order. By 4am, the hot kitchen must turn out 15 alone,000 meals covering 40 dishes. They include 150 litres of lentil soup, 600 portions of chicken and vegetable lasagne and 1,000 bits of strawberry compote. Equally, the cold kitchen must prepare 37 items which cover from cheese salad (400 portions) to halloumi wraps (350 pieces).

By.}30am, the shift supervisors have checked each and every item because of its weight, taste, temperature and a bunch of other parameters under HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), the international safety standard under that your kitchen is certified.

There&rsquo ends;}s another round of supervision once the items are loaded to 10 temperature-controlled dispatch vehicles. Within the next handful of hours, the delivery vans are on the path to their destinations: 20 public and private school canteens in Dubai and five in Sharjah. Yet another 25 in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are catered to also, but from another branch of your kitchen at Saadiyat, where in fact the entire process is replicated.

&ldquo ends;}We’ve just upgraded the abilities of the PICs or Persons in control at every educational school canteen,” said Faisal Al Hammadi, co-founder and managing director of Slices. Because of the protocols set up, Slices has slice the mustard through the random municipality inspections consistently, he added.

Strict compliance

Jehaina Hassan Al Ali, head of Applied and Awareness Nutrition, Food Safety Department at Dubai Municipality, said: “All educational schools have to adhere to the Dubai Food Code pertaining to cooked food, with regards to preparation, transport, display and storage.

&ldquo ends;}All required permits must be obtained, including preparation area layout, food lists and catering. Schoolchildren are believed a high-risk segment and susceptible to food poisoning. Therefore, Dubai Municipality ensures routine inspections.”

Although,} the recent suspension of a school canteen supplier following hospitalisation of 30 children because of suspected food poisoning in Al Ain has put school canteens in the spotlight.

Random checks

With canteens learning to be a key way to obtain students’ nutrition, several questions are increasingly being raised about who runs them, where, why and how. This regardless of the stringent laws regulating them.

As things stand, most schools outsource their food supplies, but work closely with the operators to meet up their students’ nutritional needs.

Clive Pierrepont of the Taaleem Group, which runs 10 schools in the UAE, said, “All our schools have differing catering requirements. Therefore, an assortment can be used by us of caterers to fulfil each school’s individual needs. However, all offerings, which range from our Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes-inspired three-course formal dining lunch at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, to Slices at JBS and our Raptor’s Nest Café at Raha International School, are healthy, nutritious and whenever we can, organic. The product quality and price points certainly are a regular topic at student and parent meetings and feedback is given right to the caterers.”

At the Indian SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL (IHS) too, the meals is outsourced.

Dr Ashok Kumar, CEO, said, “The educational school administration is in charge of the institution canteen. We take special care of the caliber of food. Around 1,000 students eat in the canteen everyday. Morning every, an in-house team checks the meals items delivered by owner. Random checks are completed by senior workers.”

Joseph Calafato, principal of the Sharjah-based GEMS Wesgreen International School, which outsources its food supplies also, said: “Our student council takes a dynamic role to make ideas for the menu. We encourage nutritional foods which are fresh.”

The task of keeping the meals fresh is really a process alone.

Tewfic Kidess, head of operations at PH7 Catering Services, whose HACCP-certified central kitchen at Nad Al Sheba supplies food to 19 schools, said: “PH7 follows a cook-chill operation, that is the very best solution to distribute food to schools. This technique means that the meals is cooked beforehand and blast chilled. The procedure cools freshly cooked food to a temperature of 2 degrees Celsius within 45 minutes. Food is held in industrial refrigerators and transported to each school in refrigerated and authorised vehicles later. Before break time, each PIC reheats the meals in a particular steam oven. This technique means that the freshness and taste of the meals is well-preserved.”

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Kidess added, “PH7 works together with each school to define menus and pricing diligently. Our menus are multicultural to complement Dubai’s [profile]. They’re prepared and seasonal by our qualified nutritionist. Items are carefully chosen to excite students and our dishes are filled with hidden goodness. For instance, our tomato pasta sauce is filled with finely ground vegetables.” Jehaina Al Ali said: “We encourage schools to supply nutritious and well balanced meals, but caterers can modify and reformulate recipes to make sure limits (of some ingredients) aren’t exceeded. They include salt, fats, trans sugar and fats. Foods like jelly, chocolate bars, deep fried foods, carbonated drinks, high sweet drinks, sweetened cereals, energy beverages fall in the restricted food list beneath the published guidelines recently. Many different foods prepared with an increase of fruit and veggies, wholegrains, dairy, beans are encouraged, as nutritious choices for vegetarians just.”<!– Fact Box description FACTOR gong1deng gong0deng COST!}– Fact Box description starts here–>

When it involves the menu, pricing remains a contentious issue.

While school canteens maintain they have to cover their costs, they’re under constant pressure to lessen prices from students and parents that are considered a “captive market” because they cannot walk out the educational school because of their meals.

“I sort of love the canteen food. It really is healthy however the prices continue up,” said Dana Ali of Grade 6 at GEMS Wesgreen. “It might be preferred by me if the canteen reduced the costs of what they provide,” said Mohammed Hossem of Grade 11 at exactly the same school.

At public schools, the meal prices are fixed by the national government at Dh5. They add a main dish with a wholesome drink. However in a normal private school, the common meal may cost around Dh12-15. The purchase price could rise to Dh25 in reduced school even, where in fact the meal would add a soup, main course, dessert and drink.

Al Hammadi said, “This is a challenge to balance quality of food against price expectations. Per year but have fixed costs all year through we operate for only 160 days in. We must pay rent for some educational schools to utilize their space. Several take commissions even, around 20 % of our sales sometimes. This helps it be harder for all of us to attain our mission in providing healthy meals.”

He said, “Each day around 40 to 80 % of students eat in canteens, according to the size of the facility, the sort of extent and leadership of support.” gong1deng gong0deng Not all school managements have exactly the same views in terms of canteen food.|– Fact Box description ends here–>

Not all educational school managements have exactly the same views in terms of canteen food.

At Taaleem, Pierrepont said, “We encourage our parents and students to utilize to your in-house catering arrangements, as much studies have pointed to the unsafe temperatures that snack boxes transported from your home can reach. Unrefrigerated food brought into schools could be a reason behind tummy upsets as bacteria will grow rapidly on perishables in the relatively high temperatures we experience in the UAE.”

The Indian SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL management sees things differently. As Ashok Kumar said, “We advise students and parents to consume healthy home-cooked food whenever and whenever we can. The canteen ought never to be considered a choice over home-cooked meals. Though our canteen serves many different healthy options which include juices, fruits, sandwiches etc, they don’t total a healthy meal for an evergrowing child.”<!{– Fact Box description FIGURES gong1deng gong0deng IN!}– Fact Box description starts here–> gong13deng gong1deng gong0deng ½ gong12deng gong13deng gong1deng gong0deng A day’{s nutritional intake of {a kid} comes from {the institution} lunch,|s nutritional intake of {a kid} comes from {the institution} lunch,} {says a scholarly study!}– Fact Box description starts here–>


dirhams {may be the} canteen meal {cost range} at {an exclusive} school


Students eat at PH7 Catering Services’ 19 school canteens every day


Food items {are ready} daily by Slices which {suits} 45 school canteens

Food items {are ready} by Slices which {suits} 45 school canteens

Fact Box


Students eat at PH7 Catering Services’ 19 school canteens every day