Why Fresh and Healthy School Meals?
Thanks to food campaigners across the country, we have standards in school food to ensure that children don’t get offered junk and can eat well at school. After years of hard work however, the future was looking uncertain with the Government's move to exempt Academies and Free Schools. Campaigners have worked hard in the past 18 months to ensure standards apply to all as part of the The School Food Plan. A simpler set of newly revised food standards were made mandatory for all schools in January 2015.
At SFM, we want school meals to get even better. Together we can push for better quality ingredients, school kitchens that can produce fresh food on site, more training and paid hours for catering staff and a school dining room that makes lunchtime a pleasurable experience.
If we get all the pieces of the school food jigsaw in place, parents can order school meals with confidence and children will enjoy tasty and appealing food that’s good for them.
If you’re not happy with the meals offered at your school, contact us.
The need to influence the eating habits of our children is well documented but here are a few reminders.
- The UK now has the highest rate of obesity in Europe with one in three children overweight or obese by Year 6 (9). Obesity in children under 11 has risen by over 40% in ten years (8). If this trend continues, half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020.
- London has the highest obesity levels for children in Reception and Year 6 compared to other parts of the country (9).
- The financial impact of obesity is estimated to become an additional £45 billion per year by 2050 with a seven fold increase in NHS costs alone (1).
- Junk food diets are causing other health problems too. For example, type 2 diabetes - once known as "late onset" and traditionally found in the over 40s - is increasingly found in adolescents.
- A poor diet also has significant effects on children's behaviour, concentration and mood. Children with diets lacking in essential vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids tend to perform worse academically, cannot concentrate and are more aggressive.
Feed Me Better!
Jamie Oliver’s campaign introduced drastic changes in the meals offered in 81 (out of 88) schools in the London borough of Greenwich, shifting from low-budget processed meals high in saturated fat, salt and sugar towards healthier options. A 2009 study confirmed the significant benefits the campaign had on educational attainment.
The research showed that healthy school meals significantly improved educational outcomes, in particular in English and Science, and led to a 15% reduction in absenteeism due to sickness (2). A Children's Food Trust study has shown that children in primary schools are 3 x more likely to concentrate in the classroom following improvements to the food and dining room (3).
Good food really does make a difference!
Are you still packing a packed lunch?
Research by the Children's Food Trust (4&5) shows that school meals are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, giving the children who eat them a better foundation for good health. Watch The School Food Plan's very informative film if you would like to learn more about the wide spread benefits of switching from packed lunches to a school meal.
Look what Food for Life can do!
The comprehensive approach to food education adopted by FFLP schools shows what can be achieved when schools do it right.
Schools enrolled in the Food For Life Partnership regularly show take-up figures of 70-75% (against a national average of 41.4% for primary schools and 35.8% in secondaries) and have raised their take-up figures 7 x faster than the growth in the national average (7). Whilst take-up has increased by almost 2% nationally in the past year (indicating that the new healthier menus are starting to win over parents and pupils alike) the multi-faceted and comprehensive approach to food education adopted by FFLP schools shows what can be achieved when schools do it right.
Thanks to funding from The Daylesford Foundation we are currently helping our member schools introduce the Food for Life Partnership framework and receive their well earned Food for Life Partnership award. Click here if your school would like to learn more about our membership programme.
(1) Foresight: Tackling Obesities: Future Choices: October 2007
(2) Healthy School Meals and Educational Outcomes: Institute for Social and Economic Research: January 2009
(3) Children's Food Trust, School Lunch and Learning Behaviour in Primary Schools: an intervention study: September 2007
(4) Children's Food Trust, Primary School Food Survey (2009)
(5) Children's Food Trust (2009): “School Lunch and Learning”
(6) Food in Schools: encouraging healthier eating: 3 October 2007
(7) Food for Life Partnership Report 2010: “Return of the Turkey Twizzler? How cost cuts threaten the school food revolution”
(8) National Child Measurement Programme 2010/2011 and 2012/2013 (9)