x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirati women jump at opportunity to run school canteens

"I couldn’t believe it... I immediately signed up,” said Ms Khatem, an Emirati, who was elated when given the chance to run a school canteen.

Children waiting to buy food at Al Muqran school in Fujairah where healthy eating options have become standard.  Lee Hoagland / The National
Children waiting to buy food at Al Muqran school in Fujairah where healthy eating options have become standard. Lee Hoagland / The National

ABU DHABI // When Fatima Khatem heard from the school she was volunteering at that they were looking for staff to run the canteen, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Ms Khatem, 36, an Emirati. “I immediately signed up.”

After attending the training workshops, she began her job at the beginning of October at Al Noman bin Moqren public school in Fujairah.

“I am very happy. My day begins at 7am and ends at 1pm. I start by counting how many meals we need and then head to the cooperative society. There I give them the profit that we have collected from the day before and receive the food for the day. If I know that the children like a particular sandwich and we don’t have enough of it, I ask for more. The children love the cheese and zaatar sandwiches.”

Ms Khatem is happy the meals are healthy and plays a large part in ensuring that.

“We all decided to ban chips and now serve popcorn instead. Also only wheat flour is used for bread and not white flour. Long gone are the sugar drinks and chocolates and I am relieved,” she said.

Shamsa Al Bloushi, a grade-five English teacher at the school and mother of three, said that this was one of the best programmes at the school.

“Apart from its Emiratisation and healthy eating benefits, this is extremely useful for us teachers,” she said.

At some schools, teachers are asked to oversee the canteen as well as teach their classes.

“I had to quickly finish my class and go to the canteen to help sell and distribute the food,” Mrs Al Bloushi said.

“Now that we have the new national women helping out, we are much more relaxed and organised. Not only do they help in selling but they also ensure that all our children are eating healthily. The children are, for the first time, drinking milk and fresh juice. As a parent and a teacher this is very important to me.”

salnuwais@thenational.ae