Catering For Diabetic Children In Schools

With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, and World Diabetes Day happening on 14th November, we’re focusing on how Saffron catering software can help our clients to cater for people with diabetes. And with LACA’s National School Meals Week from 6th-10th November, what better time to focus on catering for children with diabetes in schools’ Here we’ll be covering:

The facts and statistics involving children with diabetes in the UK

Most children with diabetes in the UK will have type 1 diabetes, where the body fails to produce enough insulin (so requiring regular insulin injections). However, as brought about by the increasing obesity of children in the UK, more and more children are developing type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with being overweight.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Ltd (JDRF):

  • 29,000 children have type 1 diabetes in the UK
  • So that leaves 3% of diabetic children with type 2 diabetes, although this is likely to increase with the prevalence of childhood obesity.

According to a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) this year, 621 young people aged under 25 in England and Wales were referred to pediatric diabetes units for type 2 diabetes care. The link with obesity is clear – of those referred, 78.5% were also obese. Of course, these are just the numbers of children that have received a diagnosis – the real figure of children with type 2 diabetes could be higher.

Managing the health of diabetic children in schools

Children who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will have an individual health plan (IHP), which may be managed and communicated by their Paediatric Diabetes Specialist Nurse (PDSN). It may also be communicated by the child’s parents or guardians. There will be a meeting between the parents, PDSN, headteacher and/or other specially trained staff, as well as staff from breakfast and after-school clubs. Some of the issues discussed in this meeting, and going forward, will be how to manage the child’s diabetes through:

  • Blood glucose monitoring, including target ranges
  • Insulin, including how, when, and who will administer it
  • Carbohydrate counting, whether this is via packed lunch or school meals, and how this will be calculated and by whom
  • Managing hypo and hyperglycaemia

School catering and helping the type 1 diabetic child – how Saffron software can help

If a child and their parents decide on a packed lunch, then most of the carb counting will be done by the parent, and they may choose to supply written carb information in the lunchbox, in case a school staff member needs to refer to it later when helping the child with blood glucose monitoring and administering insulin.

However, as many school children are now having school dinners (especially since the advent of universal infant school meals), there are two aspects that will need careful consideration from school caterers for children with diabetes. Firstly is the timing and availability of food and drinks for those children to prevent hyper and hypoglycaemia. The second is the calculation of carbohydrates in each meal, so that the correct amount of insulin can be given.

Calculating a nutritional profile to show the carbohydrates is where Saffron software comes into its own. As we’ve explored in some of our guides about nutrition in schools, providing nutritional information, and how Saffron’s nutritional analysis functionality works, the software can produce a reliable and real-time nutritional analysis of food from recipe to menu level. Nutritional information is attached to the database of each supplier’s ingredients, so that it is automatically imported when that ingredient is used in a recipe, and a nutritional analysis of that meal can be produced, then supplied to the child’s diabetes helper or other trained school staff for carb counting.

What is especially useful is that many school caterers – whether they are in-house or, more often, contract caterers – are already using Saffron because of the requirements to adhere to nutritional guidelines set by the School Food Plan a few years ago. The software can be easily used not just to plan and cost healthy meals to a certain nutritional benchmark, but to provide reliable nutritional information to those whom it is most important: children with diabetes who need to count carbs.

How school caterers can use Saffron for children with type 2 diabetes

Diabetes UK says that type 2 diabetes in children is ‘often caused by an extremely poor diet from a young age’. It’s also linked to obesity. They recommend treatment as published by the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD). Of course, treatment depends on how far the child’s type 2 has developed. Where it’s still possible to manage their type 2 diabetes by improving their diet, school caterers can play a part in this.

Since the School Food Plan and its associated standards were implemented, schools have had to vastly improve the healthiness of the food provided to children. This is happily continuing, and the Government is putting in place further measures to improve the nutrition of our children and reduce obesity (and thus the increase in type 2 diabetes). Recent measures include the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, and Public Health England looking into evidence on children’s excess calorie intakes.

As we’ve mentioned above, it’s great that school caterers are building on this work to stem the tide of obesity, and many of them are continuing to use Saffron to help plan, analyse, and cost their food. In order to help children already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and prevent more children becoming obese and therefore at risk of developing it, more and more schools need to produce low-fat, healthy school meals. Saffron software can so easily help with this. It features nutritional analysis, facilitated by information from suppliers’ ingredients databases, enable recipe and menu planning. Nutritional guidelines can be imported or set by the user, meaning it’s easy to see where any recipe isn’t healthy enough. Ingredient switching or other adaptations can then be made so that the food meets the required nutritional profile – a healthy one!

What next?

If your school isn’t already using Saffron to help provide nutritional information to diabetic children who are carb-counting, or you’re not using our recipe and menu planning modules to produce healthy meals to help combat childhood obesity – find out how we can help you change that. Call us on 0114 281 6060, email us at, or fill out our contact form.

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