If there’s one thing students hate more than exams and homework – it’s the school food.

Everyone hates school food. Everyone.

Students complain about the quality of school food. However, there is a general lack of consideration for why students think that way, nor is there much appreciation for those who do not often shine on-stage.

As Whitgift School catering manager Sarah Harvey explains, independently contracted companies receive annually set management fees for their services. Contrary to popular belief, additional sales “just help offset other costs for the school but doesn’t give Chartwell back any profit.” Other items are “charged at the same price we receive on the invoice.”

According to Sarah, Chartwell only gains additional profit through extra hospitalities and functions the school in which the school requests services, but “not from day-to-day services.”

Every day, Sarah meets with the Front-of-House Team to offer training or give opportunities for questions during the working day. It is a consistently disciplined operation, though one can often hear pop music wafting from the kitchen along with the smell of hot food.

For the team, interacting with students is “the fun part of the day”.

They serve 1250 lunches and an additional 200 items every day, not to mention breakfasts and dinners for boarders. The catering team does their best to serve well-presented food with great taste at an appropriate temperature, and for good value-for-money.

“There’s only so much equipment space in the kitchen, so we have to consider the restrictions of the equipment in order to produce so many meals.”

“It might seem a considerable amount of extra work, but actually, there could be… more painful work if these things are not prepared.”

In a self-conducted survey, 33 UK students graded the quality of their school lunches on an ascending scale of 0-10. A mean value of approximately 6.5 was collected.

The menu ensures that fried items are served once a week at the most and there are two fresh vegetables with every meal. “Nutrition is… something we should teach from a very very early age,” Sarah believes. “It should just become a lifestyle… something you do automatically.”

“Food waste is the one thing that we can all personally be responsible for,” Sarah states. “Take only what you want to eat… you know that you can come back.” She believes that the lack of transaction makes junior pupils with compulsory school meals the “biggest offender” of food waste.

The whole catering team seeks an open conversation, as far as placing feedback sheets on tables in the school dining hall. “We want you to enjoy the meals that you have, we want to give you food that you want to eat” she addresses to pupils.

The average among pupils from Whitgift School in the aforesaid survey collected a much higher mean of 7.3, suggesting that the catering team is doing well.

“This conversation has to be two ways; you have to engage with us for us to make changes.”