I recently attended a seminar in London dealing with the issue of food in schools and how a "whole school" food policy can be developed.
One of the issues discussed was the new Government standard for school lunches, which comes into effect in April. These regulations deal only with the school lunchtime meal. Any other food service - such as breakfast, vending, tuck shops, etc - are not included.
However, many schools are looking seriously at a whole school policy, so as to try and get the right message across to the pupils. I have already received two requests from head teachers asking to remove from the menu certain items perceived to be unhealthy.
But the problem of encouraging children to eat a balanced diet runs deeper than just removing some menu items. How do you teach children that eating a balanced diet can be enjoyable, as well as being good for them? For the past nine months we have directed our entire marketing budget for primary schools into developing and staging a play called Food 4 Thought.
It is performed by a professional theatrical company, and tells children, in a lively and fun way, that there are no such things as healthy or unhealthy foods, just healthy or unhealthy diets. So you can eat chips, but it should be as part of a balanced diet.
The seminar also touched on two other areas of concern, time and exercise.
The school lunch break has gradually got shorter, and these days an hour is generous. Some schools operate a 40-minute lunch service, but to serve 800 to 1,000 in less than an hour is a real challenge.
We have also seen a change in the exercise patterns of pupils. Again, with shorter lunch breaks, there is less time to run around and play, and many more children are now driven to school.
However, I am not sure there are any easy solutions. Just after Christmas, my wife and I took three of our nieces - aged 10, 11 and 13 - to the theatre. We went into a restaurant off Oxford Street for a pre-theatre meal. The menu was extensive - yet the order was three burgers, all with chips. At least the 13-year-old went to the salad bar for a starter.
RICHARD WARE is head of catering and house services at the London Borough of Havering
Next diary from Richard Ware: 22 February