Overcooked noodles, watery tomato sauce and a mass that, judging by the taste, could just as easily be meat as vegetables is the image that many children are presented with on their plates in their school canteens. Because such a meal ends up in the leftovers container more often than in the children’s stomachs, hunger at home in the afternoons is all the more plentiful in the form of sweets and fast food. This is exactly what star chef Stefan Marquard wants to change with the support of the “Knappschaft” insurance company under the motto “Star kitchens go to school”. The elementary school on Karl-Sittler-Strasse in Poing also applied for the cooking training last year. With success: On Friday she was allowed to receive the star chef in her canteen. In the more than five years that the nationwide project has been implemented, Stefan Marquard has already visited more than 100 schools.
Dairy products and eggs are not used in the sauces
Every sixth child and more than half of adults in Germany are now overweight, with a quarter of adults suffering from obesity. The campaign started at the beginning of 2017 as a prevention project by the health insurance company. Schools are one of the most important living spaces for children, says Gisbert Frühauf, press and public relations officer for the Munich Knappschaft. “We need to start laying a foundation as early as possible to show children that food can be tasty and healthy too.” This can counteract the long-term health consequences of an unhealthy diet.
It is important not only to cook healthy food, but also to make it child-friendly, says Stefan Marquard. “We cook what the kids love anyway, but healthier.” As a children’s cookbook author and family man, Marquard in Poing shakes a few tricks out of his apron: Vegetables are a must in side dishes, sauces and even meat dishes. On Friday, Köttbullar with mashed potatoes and gravy was the main course on the menu, with the balls being formed from meat and various vegetables.
The side dishes also consist of 50 percent vegetables, and only potato starch and oat milk are used for the sauces instead of dairy products and eggs. So the children could not avoid the vitamins. “Regardless of what we prepare, the eye eats with it,” warns school principal Verena Heigl. But making vegetables tasty for children starts with working together in the kitchen. According to Stefan Marquard’s experience, it is particularly important “to develop the same pace and a common language with the children”. To do this, you have to treat the children as full members of a cooking team. With conscientious cutting training, this is possible despite the sharp kitchen knives. This is supported by the fact that not a single drop of blood was spilled during the preparations in the kitchen.
In addition to the surplus of ready-made products in the supermarkets and the lack of time in everyday life to cook, Verena Heigl also observes another phenomenon that stands in the way of children’s healthy nutrition: the lack of eating culture within families. Fewer and fewer families would take the time to sit down at a table with the kids over a healthy, home-cooked dinner. But sitting together and chatting while eating is particularly important for children. The Poinger elementary school would also like to convey a communal eating culture to the children as part of the project. “If we manage to make the children strong, maybe the parents will also open up to such issues.”
The school contract already states that regional food will be offered
According to the participants, the long-term change in the cooking culture in the schools is also important. And in many ways. For the long-term qualification of the cooking staff in the schools, Stefan Marquard offers subsequent training via his webinars in addition to his visit. In addition, by effectively using the existing school or catering kitchen equipment such as the steam cooker, you can not only get vitamins, but also save energy when cooking.
Despite a mostly less cheap selection of fresh products, this offers the opportunity to take the limited food budget of the schools into account. The parents of the pupils already find out that regional and seasonal food is prioritized in the Poinger elementary school when leafing through the school contract. And the young chefs seem to agree, who, despite the healthy vegetables, enjoy their Kottbüllar with relish while happily waving goodbye to Stefan Marquard.