Our Manifesto 2024

School Food Matters exists to teach children about food and to improve children’s access to healthy, sustainable food during their time at school.

We want every school to take a whole school approach to food; where children eat nutritious and delicious food, develop an understanding of where food comes from, and are equipped with the skills to buy, create and enjoy great food in the future.

Read the full School Food Matters Manifesto here.

We are calling on our new government to fully realise the potential of the next generation. You too can take action by engaging with your MP to bring attention to the importance of school food. Here’s our guide to contacting them, featuring an adaptable template letter for your convenience.

We believe the new government must do the following:

1. Invest in delicious and nutritious school meals for all children

We need to improve children’s health. When all children are provided with delicious and nutritious food in school, they are better able to learn and thrive; to chase their dreams and confront their challenges.

School meals present an unrivalled opportunity to provide great nutrition to children. However, to qualify for a free school meal in England, a child must come from a family that is extremely poor, with a household income below £7,400 pa after benefits. This means one in three (900,000) children living in poverty is considered too well off to get a free school meal. And a further 215,000 children are missing out due to the over-complicated enrolment process.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, Wales and London, every child in primary school is entitled to a hot, healthy school lunch. It’s time to stop means-testing children for food and introduce stigma-free school food for all, regardless of where they grow up.

The government should:

  • invest in every child by providing them delicious, nutritious and sustainable school meals, fully funded, no matter where they grow up
2. Expand access to school breakfast clubs and provide more fruit and veg

We want children to have access to the nutrition they need to sustain them throughout the school day, and for no child to arrive at school too hungry to learn.

Children in primary schools receiving a free breakfast achieved, on average, two months’ additional progress over a year. The government currently funds breakfast clubs in areas with high levels of deprivation, but the provision is inadequate, and many disadvantaged children are missing out.

And the government currently provides a portion of fruit or vegetable as a snack to all pupils aged 4-6, but this is not enough when fewer than one in five children eats the recommended 5 A Day.

The government should: 

  • provide every school with sufficient funding for a breakfast club so that no child starts the day too hungry to learn

  • make the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme permanent for all pupils, and provide sufficient funding to ensure the produce is sustainably sourced

3. Ensure all school food is delicious, nutritious and sustainable

We want school food to be healthy for both people and planet, as well as tasty. School food remains the healthiest option for most children, since only 1.6% of packed lunches meet the same nutritional standards. However, the quality of school meals can be inconsistent.

There are currently no government checks on school food which means a child’s access to good nutrition depends too much on where they go to school.

Young people tell us they have to spend money on bottled drinks as there is no access to fresh water, despite the supply of free drinking water being a mandatory requirement in the school food standards

The government should: 

  • update the School Food Standards to better reflect the health needs of children and the planet

  • monitor and report on compliance with the School Food Standards

  • provide funding for water fountains and refill stations in schools to normalise free tap water as the default for hydration, and to make meaningful action on single use plastics

4. Fund a school improvement officer for every local authority

We want all schools to be given the support they need to deliver a whole school approach to food.

Local officers have a better understanding of schools in their area and can more nimbly and effectively support them to improve the food on offer.

A clear finding from the Food Standards Agency pilot is that local authorities with public health and nutritional expertise are well placed to support improvements in school food provision.

This finding is echoed in our Healthy Zones programme in Southwark and Tower Hamlets, both local authorities with dedicated school food leads. Our independent evaluation shows that the strong foundations laid by local leads have supported wider and deeper engagement within schools looking to improve their food culture.

The government should: 

  • provide funding for a school food improvement officer in every local authority
5. Kickstart a food education revolution

We want children to leave school knowing how to cook a variety of meals and with an understanding of where food comes from. Food education should be engaging and provide pupils with the skills they need to create healthy, tasty meals, and the knowledge to become informed consumers.

Food and Nutrition is the only national curriculum subject without an A-Level, and the subject needs to be given the same status as Maths and English. Lessons can be hampered by a lack of funding for equipment and ingredients, with teachers often subsidising these from their own pockets.

Many children leave school without understanding that food comes from the soil, not the supermarket. In a recent survey, two in three students (66%) felt they didn’t get enough time out in nature and wanted more, with most children preferring green time to screen time as a reward in school.

The government should: 

  • reintroduce Food A-Level, provide sufficient funding for food education lessons, and make sure every child has the opportunity to grow food at school