Two representatives of Barilla Academy (part of BARILLA’s Strength2Food partner), Roberto Bassi and Ilaria Rossi, visited elementary schools in Serbia from November 20 to 22 as part of a pilot project related to school meals. In total, nine schools were visited in the territory of Belgrade, Novi Sad and Mionica, a small town south of Belgrade.

The goals of the visit were a tour of kitchens and kitchen equipment and a discussion with school cooks about menus and the challenges they face when preparing food. All schools highlighted the problem related to the Law on Public Procurement and the difficulties it creates regarding the quality of food that schools can purchase. School principals and chefs know that the obligation to accept the lowest offer also means a lower quality of food that is not always fresh and can lead to large amounts of waste – 50% of potatoes are wasted, fresh meat has to be rejected because of a suspicious appearance or smell, etc. . Such cases of spoiled food are partly the result of delivery, which in some schools is not as frequent as it should be – the contract stipulates that deliveries should be daily, but the supplier delivers food twice a week for reasons of economy.

The schools were happy to discuss opportunities to improve their menus with Barilla Academy colleagues and welcomed advice on how to make meals more attractive to children. This would not only increase the nutritional quality of the meal, but also reduce the amount of food left on the plates after the meal.

In one of the schools, visitors from the Barilla Academy observed that students consume large amounts of bread (only the soft center part, leaving the crust) rather than the main course, which results in a poorly balanced intake of nutrients and also represents a waste of money given by parents for school meals.
In schools in Novi Sad, students’ meals are regularly controlled by analyzes of the energy value and nutritional composition of meals conducted by the Institute for Public Health of Vojvodina, and we were shown examples of nutritional analyzes and recommendations on how to improve the balance between proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Such analyzes were not conducted in the schools we visited in Belgrade and Mionica.

In the coming months, the BARILLA team will prepare suggestions that should make school menus not only more attractive to children, but also more nutritious and (which is especially important for kitchen staff) faster to prepare, but not more expensive. They think it’s totally doable!

Steve Quarrie
November 24, 2017