Good news: Government commits to school food policy reforms in levelling up plan

2 February 2022
Today, the government published its Levelling Up White Paper, which includes a number of exciting school food policy reforms.

These reforms, which include a commitment to oversee compliance with school food standards, come after many months of campaigning from School Food Matters, BiteBack 2030 and The Food Foundation, supported by Impact on Urban Health. Together, they form the School Food Review working group, joining forces to push for change.

Today's announcements reflect our focus on accountability; creating a mechanism for schools to report on their strategies to embed a whole school approach to food, to ensure quality provision and drive take-up of school meals so no child misses out on good nutrition. 

The government has addressed this challenge by making the following four commitments:

  1. Schools will be encouraged to publish statements on the arrangements for their ‘whole school approach’ to school food. This will become mandatory when ‘schools can do this effectively’.
  2. The Department for Education (DfE) will be working with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to pilot measures with local authorities to ensure greater compliance with the school food standards.
  3. Training and support, worth £200,000, will be provided for school governors on the role they should take to support a whole school approach to food.
  4. Funding of £5 million to support food teachers so that every child can leave school knowing how to cook six recipes.

Founder and Chief Executive at School Food Matters, Stephanie Slater, said: 

“After two years of disruption in schools, it is great to have some good news to celebrate. We’re delighted that the government has recognised that reform is urgently needed to help schools, caterers and parents successfully navigate the school food system. Mandatory reporting allows for continuous improvement, will enable us to shine a light on great school food and identify any barriers to success so that no child misses out on good nutrition at school.”

These policy announcements will also be welcomed by all the headteachers who signed our letter to Nadhim Zahawi and the caterers and school business managers who gave their time to contribute to roundtable discussions on school food policy.

Developing an effective accountability mechanism around school food, to include mandatory reporting, piloting of a quality assurance role for the FSA, and specific training for school governors, represents a big step forward for the school food system. We’re looking forward to working with the DfE to shape these reforms and to hearing more from government on school food policy with the forthcoming publication of the National Food Strategy white paper. 

But we’re not done yet! Accountability is just one of the five areas for reform, so work will continue to push for extension of entitlement, removing barriers to uptake of school meals, simplifying funding, and improving procurement to build a more resilient and fairer school food system so that every child can thrive, no matter where they live.