TALENTED YOUNG CHEF Lily O’Reilly (8) helped cook up a storm for her fellow pupils in her school kitchen on Friday (17 February).

Lily was the winner in a competition to become ‘cook for the day’ as part of the regular promotional activities organised by Sunderland City Council to get more pupils having school meals.

Regular theme days are held in schools to encourage more young people to try the healthy, nutritious and freshly cooked food they offer.

As part of jungle themed menu including Hakuna Matata Wrap with Orangatan Dip, Fish and Chimps and Tiger Sponge with Amazon Custard, was followed by a competition in which Lily won the golden ticket.

The Year Four pupil from Dame Dorothy School joined kitchen staff led by school cook Mariangela Volpe to plan Friday’s menu, prepare the food and then serve it to her classmates at lunchtime.

Lily said: “I was very excited but also nervous. I didn’t want to set the fire alarm off in the school by burning the pizza.”

Head teacher Mr Iain Williamson added: “We were delighted that Lily won the competition to be cook for the day. As a school we really enjoy working in partnership with the school meals team to deliver the theme days.

“Not only does it help to increase school meal uptake and encourage a nutritionally balanced diet, it provides something a little bit out of the ordinary which the children love.”

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for City Services, Councillor Michael Mordey added: “School meal uptake across our schools has always been very high, and we remain among the best performing authorities nationally.

“We are always keen to see numbers grow even further because of the recognised health and attainment benefits which school dinners provide.

“School meals always help provide more fresh, healthy food for our children and young people.

“The theme days in schools by the school meals team are a really innovative way of helping the meals service.

“I know Lily enjoyed becoming part of the kitchen staff on Friday and seeing all the hard work which goes into preparing the menus and cooking the meals every day.”

The school of 210 pupils in Dock Street is one of 84 schools where the meals are provided by Sunderland City Council’s school meal service.

The service provide approximately 13,500 children a day with fresh, tasty and nutritious meals, which equates to around 2.4 million meals served each year.

The City Council has also invested £3.7m over the last ten years to provide new kitchen equipment dining facilities across schools in Sunderland.