Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity (GSTC) has released a report examining opportunities in the school food system to prioritise nutritious food for young people.
It’s been seven years since the School Food Plan introduced the school food standards to ensure all food served in schools in England met a minimum threshold of nutritional quality. Whilst many schools and caterers have embraced the mandatory standards and serve nutritious and tasty food each day, other schools have struggled to apply the standards and, without any formal monitoring, compliance is patchy.
The research, conducted in 60 inner-city primary and secondary schools, examined the food served across the whole school day including breakfast, lunch and after school clubs. The report also looks at school food policies. Researchers found that school food standard-compliant menus do not automatically translate into healthy food being eaten by young people.
The report makes recommendations to ensure all children can access nutritious school food:
Greater guidance from Department for Education to help schools find and maintain the best possible food provision
Free school meals to be extended to school holidays, and offered to young people most at risk of experiencing health inequality, including those from families with no recourse to public funds
National and local government to put in place mechanisms that monitor school food standards, holding schools and catering companies to account.
We wholeheartedly agree with GSTC that all young people have a right to be healthy no matter where they live, what sort of school they attend, or their family context. Every decision-maker in the world of school food has the opportunity and responsibility to address health inequalities and strive towards the best possible food offer for the children in their care.