The dining room at Agora International School Madrid, a place of continuous learning

Eating well to learn better. If we know for sure that what mothers eat during pregnancy has an impact on their baby’s development… how can what we feed them during the infant years not be important? So it does.

Numerous scientific studies have shown, decade after decade, the benefits of regular physical activity and proper nutrition on the health of children, adolescents, as well as adults and the elderly.  It is well known that a healthy and balanced diet is essential for the good development of children. There are many resources at our fingertips on scientific dissemination of good nutrition: books, nutrition influencers, television programmes… where we are reminded of what is healthy and what is not.  Establishing a schedule for each meal helps the body to get used to specific times and avoid snacking between meals. It is important to introduce foods of all types, controlling the portions consumed. In this way, health problems such as overweight or cardiovascular diseases can be prevented.

At Agora International School Madrid we have taken action, and for years we have been committed to a careful and solid project around the dining room with the absolute belief in the “positive impact on the wellbeing and general health of the children”. We started by increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in our breakfast and lunch meals. We reduced the amount of fried foods and sweets to encourage the intake of more nutritious and healthier products, such as cheese or hummus, and because of a firm belief in limiting products high in saturated fats as much as possible.

Healthy habits as a child, a healthy future

“Sport is an integral part of the school’s curriculum, instilling in our students a passion for sport and healthy habits so that they become physically and emotionally balanced adults. Aware of the many hours pupils spend at the school, the school becomes a place of learning, not only academically but also in many other aspects. “We consider Agora International School Madrid to be much more than a school: through all the extracurricular activities we offer, pupils have the opportunity to develop their individual talents. We place great importance on personalisation within the classes because before being pupils, they are individual people with their own concerns, worries and hobbies. And it is the same for nutrition. By eating in the canteen every day, we want to give our pupils the opportunity to learn about a balanced diet, adapted to life situations, to learn about all kinds of food that they don’t have the opportunity to eat in their daily life and how to replace animal protein.

This year we have inaugurated new activities in the dining room, under the supervision of the nutritionist who prepares the menus, to promote proper nutrition, in a didactic and fun way.

Meatless Monday, less animal protein

We are joining Meat Free Mondays, where we are looking for an alternative to animal protein, including vegetarian dishes, to promote a balanced diet.  This international movement aims to get people to reduce their consumption of animal-based foods for the sake of their health and the planet. The World Health Organisation warned about the danger of eating too much meat, especially processed meat, because of the link between excessive consumption and certain health problems. The idea is not to stop eating meat, as its nutritional value is obvious. The idea is to eat less and of better quality, so it is recommended to avoid its derivatives (sausages, sausages and other processed products).

What is the monthly International Day celebration?

Food can also open the mind, and to this end, two Thursdays a month we bring new foods to the little palates to help them try new flavours. Also, as a novelty this year, the children have the opportunity to try gastronomic delicacies from different countries during lunchtime. This initiative consists of offering them foreign food to get to know a country better, following the international values of the school, getting closer to its aromas and flavours and discovering a new form of culture.

Each month a country is chosen and the dining room is decorated with everyday objects and typical dishes. We also decorate the dining room tables with the colours of the chosen country’s flag. “Discovering the culture of a country – in the words of the school – is not only done through a language, – as a multilingual school – but food is an essential part, and for this reason, we think it is important to consider the dining room as another place of learning”.

Try it Thursday

Try it Thursday is another way of learning healthy habits, while reinforcing values such as leadership, belonging to a group and decision making. Two Thursdays a month we offer our students the opportunity to experience a small, tapas-style portion of a food never before served in the dining hall, such as tofu, quinoa or kale. The Student Council should be responsible for collecting feedback from all students who should vote on whether they like the dish enough to introduce it to the school menu. “We believe that the canteen service should be an integral part of the school’s educational project, and that children should experience a variety of different types of food as well as understand different gastronomic cultures. In this way we give shape to one of the school’s core values: ‘shaping the world’.

Good table manners

-Put your arm up!

-Use the napkin before drinking.

-Cut a piece of bread, it’s not a sandwich!

-The knife doesn’t go in the mouth.

If you are familiar with some of these phrases we repeat, lunch, dinner and breakfast parents, this part is interestint to you… and very much so. Another aspect that we are going to emphasize to teach from the dining room are good manners at mealtimes, so important to know how to adapt to any situation in real life. How many parents have formal meetings around a table? For this reason the Focused Dining Room will be born in September 2021, where they will be taught in small groups what table manners consist of, the correct use of cutlery, the proper pairing of sauces and herbs with certain foods: pasta with basil, calçots and romescu sauce, turkey and cranberry sauce but what to do with chimichurri sauce. Our children will be able to find out from September. In this innovative project, we will even teach them how to start a good conversation at the table, how to choose the right music for a dinner party or the etiquette for setting the table. As a finishing touch, we will teach our next hosts of large tables how to dress in formal dress, what a formal service consists of or how to prepare the table.

Healthy kids inside and out

In short, as well as taking care of what they eat, we want to offer children educational tools that will help them to enjoy it and improve their wellbeing. It is our mission as a school with the firm belief that with good habits in childhood, we can prevent them from having to take care of diseases associated with poor nutrition in the future. That is why we are taking decisions to elevate the dining room as an educational part of the school, an important step in caring for their future health, wellbeing and education.

10 / 05 / 21