In a nutshell: School lunches are generally organised in one or more of the following modes: 1) school kitchen; 2) ordering meals from suppliers; and 3) students bringing their own lunch.

Advice for School Kitchen

Preparing meals for tens or even hundreds of students at an on-site kitchen is not an easy task as it can impose food safety hazards. During bulk cooking, heat from the heat source may not be evenly distributed in the food, resulting in food that is not thoroughly cooked or warmed enough before consumption. Cooking of food in large quantities can often result in food staying within the Temperature Danger Zone (4-60°C) for long periods of time before consumption, allowing foodborne pathogens to thrive. Cooling down large amounts of food can also be problematic, as heat trapped deeply within the food may not escape quickly enough, resulting in bacterial growth in food. Furthermore, poor hygiene practices and a lack of kitchen space can increase the risk of cross contamination between raw and cooked food. Therefore, trained manpower as well as adequate room for purchasing, storing, preparing, cooking and distributing food at a school kitchen are crucial.

If schools serve meals from on-site kitchens, they should ensure that the kitchen is sufficiently large, well-equipped, regularly maintained and hygienic, and the staff who prepare and handle food are supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene practices. The following simplified guide is adopted from the "Safe Kitchen: An Illustrated Guide to Good Hygiene Practices for Food Handlers", covering GHPs necessary for working in a kitchen. All food handlers are advised to go through the materials before work.

A) Purchase
B) Receiving and Storage of Raw Materials
C) Preparation
D) Cold Storage
E) Cooking and Reheating
F) Hot and Cold Holding
G) Cooling

Cooked food, if not immediately consumed, should be cooled down quickly using safe chilling methods.

1. Two-stage Cooling Method

2. Blast Chilling Method

H) Distribution

When portioning food on-site at school:

Whether schools choose to provide buffet meals to students regularly or on a one-off occasion, such as a party, they should ensure that:

Advice for Ordering Meals from Suppliers

Some schools place lunch orders for their students through an external meal supplier. When selecting a lunch meal supplier, schools should ensure that:

Advice for Students Bringing Their Own Lunch

For parents or caregivers who prepare meals at home for their children to bring to school, they should:

Click here for more detailed advice for packing meals to school.