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How The SGGS Kitchen Has Adapted...

In our latest blog, Julie Boakes, Head of Catering, shares how the SGGS kitchen is continuing to serve nutritious meals post-lockdown, whilst ensuring safety and hygiene.

Over to Julie…


In the 8 years I have been part of the catering department at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School, our food offering has always been healthy and plentiful. We have historically served croissants at breakfast for early arrivals and provided break items and fresh fruit in the dining area and Sixth Form cafe.  Our menu is designed with variety in mind, from jacket potatoes and freshly made sandwiches to daily options suitable for vegan, vegetarian or meat eaters alike. Deserts, unsurprisingly, have always been popular!

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many things and our food offering is not exempt. We are not currently serving breakfast, sandwiches arrive pre-packed and deserts are supplied in individual bags. Pasta is on the menu 3 days per week with a rice and noodle option on the remaining days. Students are now on staggered lunch breaks meaning they need quick and easy food that does not get ruined when served on disposable paper plates. It is not the most exciting schedule we have ever devised, but it is ensuring students are getting a hot meal.


Unexpected preparedness

The coronavirus is unlike anything our generation has experienced before, but we were well prepared for this scenario after an event our team had to manage five years ago. When our new kitchen was being built and installed at SGGS, the catering department had to relocate to a portable kitchen. This restricted our ability to be creative and offer our usual expansive menu, meaning pasta was for lunch every day for an entire school year! Incredibly, when we moved into our new kitchen and took pasta off the menu, giving students a break from it, we were inundated with requests to bring it back! It has always been a popular item and so far, this appears to still be the case.

The now society-wide focus on washing hands and careful consideration of hygiene has always been essential in our line of work. In many ways, safety measures being implemented represent business as usual for the SGGS kitchen staff.

Not immune to change

That said, there have undoubtedly been changes beyond the menu.  The most obvious being the requirement of masks and visors. At the time of writing this, not everyone in school has to wear them but it is absolutely essential that we do because we are handling food. When serving hot food specifically, this can become extremely warm and uncomfortable, which is a challenge, but one we know must be done. We no longer serve on plates or provide cutlery either (disposable items are provided) to avoid any chance of contamination taking place.

Washing hands is no different to how it has always been, but there is more cleaning involved day to day. We would normally be supported by day-time supervisors, but they are now tasked with cleaning pinch points around school, such as narrow corridors and door handles. This means we are required to stay a little longer and ensure our dining area, tables, seats and stations remain properly sanitized at all times. Also, nobody is allowed in our kitchen anymore except for catering staff. We are normally a sociable team but to guarantee safety, our working area has become a completely restricted zone.

An appetite for learning

I cannot fault the mindset of the catering staff, who are going above and beyond to ensure a safe environment and quality food offer. We have always been adaptable and believe in doing what needs to be done to succeed; a resilient mindset the students often tend to show too.

I am sure that some of the girls would like more options, just as much as we would enjoy preparing more foods for them. But you would not think this was the case walking into the great atmosphere around the dining area each lunch break. Students seem grateful to be back at school, learning with classmates and eating socially amongst their friends. As long as they remain happy, safe and well-fed on nutritious meals, the changes and the efforts we are going to are well worth the results.