The Danish schools where the kids make the dinners

Have you ever wondered who is making your child’s school lunch? For a growing number of schools in Copenhagen, the answer is the children themselves.

The Danish schools where the kids make the dinners
Kitchen assistants -- and schoolgoers -- at the European School in Copenhagen. Photo: Melanie Haynes

Copenhagen House of Food (Fonden Københavns Madhus) was created in 2007 with support from the city council and has changed the way children were eating school lunches through the creation of so-called Culinary Schools within the public school system.

There are currently fourteen schools in Copenhagen with culinary schools and four more on the way this year.

These kitchens are run by a chef or cook who has a team of between four and eight children from grades 4 to 8, who work in the kitchen on food preparation each week.

Across the city, these kitchens produce 4,000 portions of food every day made from around 90 percent organic ingredients.

Prior to the creation of the culinary schools in 2007, the norm in Denmark was for children to bring in packed lunches from home. Copenhagen House of Food started with the goal of setting up five culinary schools within the public school system.

An aim of the project was to change the culture of packed lunches at schools, with the introduction of a kitchen to produce the meals. However, many schools were not ready for the change.

Rasmus Gøtsche, School food project leader at Copenhagen House of Food, was a teacher before he joined the organisation, which helped him with his work alongside teachers to introduce the concept.

“I understood the pressures on teachers and what their days were like, but I was also able to convince them of the educational need for the culinary kitchen both for the children taking part but also for the school as a whole,” Gøtsche told The Local.

“The children get to learn about food, hygiene, nutrition, sustainability and team work. They are doing it for real. If that isn’t getting them ready for adulthood, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Each youngster gets the chance to work in the kitchen for one week a year. Although this takes them out of the classroom for that time, the skills they learn are considered an integral part of the child’s education and participation is not an optional pursuit.

One of the most recently opened culinary school is at the newly built European School in the Carlsberg Byen area of the city. The European School is part of the public school system in Copenhagen but is atypical due to its high percentage of children from non-Danish backgrounds, and many who have lived in a variety of countries before moving to Denmark.

Hanne Schmidt, European School head of primary, is extremely proud to have the programme at her school.

“Children can learn so much from working in the kitchen here. The European School curriculum is very academic, so having the culinary school within our school means the pupils are able to learn extremely valuable practical skills. They learn how to cook and what a meal means,” Schmidt told The Local.

Photo: Melanie Haynes

“But wider issues are tackled. There is an emphasis on sustainability, and this is a very important aspect of the European School’s identity,” she added.

“The school is associated with the European Environment Agency and follows its agenda on climate change. Working in the kitchen and understanding about where food comes from, the issues around organic foods, food waste and sustainability gives the children a chance to see this in a very visible and practical way,” the head of primary continued.

“They also learn that other people are dependent on them and how important this is for both the individual and the group. They take so much pride in it and think ‘I did this for my friends’. It also helps the other children push their boundaries with the food they try and they understand more about how much effort has gone into the preparation. All the children in the school get access to a healthy meal in the middle of the day, which is essential for learning,” Schmidt said.

Anne Marie Boldsen Søndergaard is the kitchen leader at the European School.

“I was excited to start this kitchen with the European School. The school’s management is very positive about the importance of the culinary school and its impact on students’ learning. I am also able to be more creative with the food we prepare due to the cultural mix of the school,” Søndergaard told The Local.

“Not only do they work in the team preparing the lunches but they also, if they have worked hard, get the chance to learn about something specific — maybe a special cake recipe or learn to prepare and cook a lobster. They are often guided by what they are keen to learn about. I have worked in the culinary kitchens in Copenhagen since 2015 and I can say that it is the best job I have ever had,” she added.

The children and young people who work in the kitchen appear to share the adults’ enthusiasm.

Beatrice Orben, age 13, started at the European School after moving to Denmark from Boston in 2018. She has recently finished her time in the culinary school.

“There is no chance I would have been able to experience this in the US. Our school lunches there were like cardboard, literally burgers taken from the freezer in boxes and put straight into microwaves. It has been a lot of fun working in the kitchen and already half way through my week there I felt I have learned so much. I enjoy meeting people in the kitchen and it feels like I have a real job,” Orben told The Local.

READ ALSO: Denmark presents plan to get kids eating healthier food

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How to get prescription medicines in Denmark

Are prescription drugs covered by Danish national healthcare? It's complicated.

How to get prescription medicines in Denmark

How prescriptions work in Denmark

You’ve seen your doctor and been given a prescription. Now what? 

Once your doctor inputs the details of your prescription into the Danish health system, your data is available to any pharmacy in the country with a quick scan of your yellow health card. 

All pharmacies in Denmark charge the same price for each medication, so there’s no need to shop around or commit to a single ‘home’ pharmacy — you can just swing into whichever is most convenient for you that day. 

There are also online pharmacies that can fill your prescriptions and deliver them by courier or mail, or arrange for pickup at a pharmacy or another location. Remember to only purchase from websites with the green EU logo, according to the Danish Medicines Agency. 

READ ALSO: What happens if you lose your Danish yellow health insurance card? 

Do you have to pay for prescription medicines in Denmark? 

Mostly, yes — as a rule, prescription medicines aren’t covered by the national healthcare system until you reach certain spending thresholds for the year. At that time, discounts will be applied to your future prescription medicine purchases based on how much you’ve already spent. 

The scheme is called ‘reimbursement,’ which can be slightly misleading — the discounts are applied at the pharmacy, so you don’t have to pay up front and wait for the Danish Medicine Agency to cut you a check. 

Your progress toward the reimbursement thresholds is tracked automatically by the Central Reimbursement Register (abbreviated CTR in Danish), which sums up purchases of reimbursable medications associated with your yellow card. Your current CTR total is given on your receipt from the pharmacy after you purchase a medication, and you can also track your spending on reimbursable medications here

Reimbursable prescription medications purchased in other EU/EEA countries can count toward your CTR. If you’ve bought prescriptions abroad, fill out this form to be reimbursed based on the price of the medicine in Denmark. 

READ MORE: Why does it take so long in Denmark to see a psychologist or therapist? 

What are the reimbursement thresholds for 2022 for adult patients? 

If you’re over 18, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for your first 1,020 kroner of prescription medications. 

Once you’ve spent 1,020 kroner, you’ll receive a 50 percent reimbursement on future reimbursable purchases, and your copay will be 50 percent. That increases to a 75 percent reimbursement after your CTR total hits 1,705 kroner (with a copay of 25 percent) and an 85 percent reimbursement (and copay of 15 percent) for CTR totals above 3,700. 

Remember, your CTR total is calculated by the price of the medications before the reimbursement is applied. (Even though you’ve only paid 50 percent of the cost of medications after you hit the first reimbursement threshold, the full price of the medication is added to your CTR total.)

After your CTR total reaches 20,091 kroner, you’ll receive 100 percent reimbursement on future medications.

Taken together, that means the most you can pay out of pocket for prescription medications in Denmark in 2022 is 4,320 kroner.

The Danish Medicines Agency provides a chart of the thresholds and an example patient’s yearly spending history and reimbursements here. 

READ ALSO: Are you eligible for Danish national healthcare while your residence permit is processing? 

What about reimbursements for children’s medications? 

For patients under 18, all applicable prescriptions have a minimum 60 percent reimbursement rate. That gets bumped up to 75 percent after a CTR total of 1,705 kroner, 85 percent after 3,700 kroner, and 100 percent after 24,628 kroner. 

Just like for adults, the maximum out-of-pocket costs for a child’s prescriptions in a year is 4,320 kroner. 

What if I know I’ll need more than 20,000 kroner of medications? 

If you have chronic conditions or a major health challenge and can tell at the beginning of the year that you’ll hit the CTR maximum, you can apply for an installment plan. 

Pick the pharmacy most convenient for you and request an installment plan — you’ll be able to pay the maximum yearly copay of 4,320 kroner in 12 monthly installments of 360 kroner. 

Generic versus name-brand drugs and reimbursement 

Different drugs with the same active ingredients are called synonymous — generally, if your doctor prescribes a name-brand drug and there’s a less expensive synonymous drug, your pharmacist will give you the option to choose. 

If you stick with the more expensive name-brand drug, you’re responsible for the cost difference and only the price of the generic drug will be added to your CTR total. 

There are sometimes good reasons for choosing a more expensive synonymous drug — if, for instance, you’re allergic to some of the added ingredients in the generic form, your doctor can apply for increased reimbursement on your behalf.