Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19 in UAE: Dubai schools to reopen canteens Filed on August 28, 2021

Families are still encouraged to prepare their kids' meals as canteens will be serving pre-packaged food.

As schools reopen tomorrow, students are advised to bring their own lunch boxes — packed with nutritious homemade food — as canteens will be limited to serving pre-packaged meals.

Most canteens and cafeterias will be reopening with campuses but with safety precautions in place.

In Dubai, schools can provide catering services if the food is pre-packaged and follows the municipality’s guidelines, according to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Families are encouraged to prepare their children’s food and drinks, and ensure they have their own cutlery in their lunch boxes, the authority added.

School principals have also been reminding parents to plan ahead and keep their kids’ meals healthy.

“We continue to reiterate the importance of fresh homemade meals. Children may bring their meals from home and they are always encouraged to include a fruit,” said Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-principal of Credence High School.

“Teachers eat their meals with the children during breaks to observe what the kids are eating and also remind them about the importance of having a strong immunity,” Singh added.

During lunch breaks, teachers will also have to make sure students won’t be sharing food with each other, the KHDA stated in its protocol.

Social distancing and capacity limits should also be monitored at cafeterias, it added, Disposable items should be used and the highest standards of hygiene must be maintained.

“Buffets and other forms of meal gatherings are not allowed. Meal breaks should be staggered to ensure the recommended of one metre of physical distance among all students,” the KHDA said.

In preparation for the new academic year, many schools in Dubai have revamped their kitchens and adopted new ways to prioritise the health and nutrition of their students and staff. The goal, they said, is to bolster their immune systems amid the pandemic.

Lisa Johnson, principal of American Academy for Girls (AAG), said: “With the support of Taaleem, we secured a new food provider, Leela’s Lunches, who have built the foundation of their company based on shifting the dietary habits of children towards real and whole foods.

“This palette change is accomplished gradually by adding vegetables to sauces, eliminating additives, preservatives, sugar and refined products, introducing higher proportions of wholegrains and slowly crowding out foods with little nutritional value. More importantly, the food offerings are delicious, demonstrating that ‘good for you’ can also be ‘good tasting’,” she added.

The AAG has also set up a ‘teaching kitchen’, where children will be taught how to prepare delicious, healthy food.

“The kitchen is open to the dining hall to allow it to be a showcase for nutritious food choices. We have scheduled guest chefs from local restaurants to demonstrate healthy cooking options to staff, students, which will surely light a spark for life-long good eating habits for all,” said Johnson.

The Dubai Municipality has shared a food guide with schools, explaining global research and information about what educational establishments can do to enhance students’ health.

Allan Weston, principal of Greenfield International School, said: “Food guides are critical to helping students make appropriate choices regarding their overall health and nutrition and this is particularly so now that we are all aware of how important a strong immune system is to assist fight against the symptoms of Covid-19.”

Jennifer Kilsby, head of house and physical well-being coordinator at GEMS Wellington Academy–Silicon Oasis, added: “We are looking forward to using the new Dubai Municipality guidance to support and grow our work with parents and our school community on what a balanced diet can be.

“In our school, our wellbeing curriculum encourages pupils to be mindful, empowering, respectful and authoritative eaters. Within this the three school-based activities that have been shown to make a positive and long-lasting change are growing food, cooking food and shopping for food. As we begin the new academic year we are busy planning opportunities for children to develop a love of good nutritious food.”

Nandini Sircar

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