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 in 2012.  Campaigners, including SFM, have worked hard to ensure standards apply to all as part of 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.  A good school food culture can help your Ofsted inspection.

From September 2015, school food will contribute to how schools are rated by Ofsted in a new Common Inspection Framework.

“Inspectors will look for evidence of a culture or ethos of exercise and healthy eating throughout their entire inspection visit, in classrooms as well as the school canteen. They will look at the food on offer and visit the canteen to see the atmosphere and culture in the dining space and the effect it has on pupils’ behaviour.”

  • The UK now has the highest rate of obesity in Europe with one in three children National Child Measurement Programme 2014/2015 overweight or obese by Year 6.  Obesity in children under 11 has risen by over 40% in ten years National Child Measurement Programme 2010/2011 from 1994 to 2003. If this trend continues, half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020.  
  • London has the highest obesity National Child Measurement Programme 2014/2015 levels for children in Reception and Year 6 compared to other parts of the country.
  • The financial impact of obesity is estimated to rise to £50 billion per annum by 2050Foresight: Tackling Obesities: Future Choices: November 2008 - September 2010.
  • 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.

Good food makes a difference!

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 Healthy School Meals and Educational Outcomes: Institute for Social and Economic Research: January 2009, in particular in English and Science, and led to a 15% reduction in absenteeism due to sickness. Recently, another study from Finland shows that a healthy diet (rich in vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grain, fish and unsaturated fats, and low in sugary products) is associated with better reading skillsDiet quality and academic achievement: a prospective study among primary school children. Haapala E et al. 2016 in the first three school years. Recent research has also found that providing primary school children with a free and nutritious meal before school can boost reading, writing and maths results Magic Breakfast: Evaluating the effectivness of school breakfast provision: Education Endowment Foundation: November 2016 by the equivalent of two months’ progress over the course of a year.

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 roomChildren's Food Trust, School Lunch and Learning Behaviour in Primary Schools: an intervention study: September 2007.

Packed Lunches or School Meals?

Research by the Children's Food Trust Children's Food Trust 2013: School lunches v. packed lunches: a comparison of secondary schools in England following the introduction of compulsory school food standards 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!

Schools enrolled in Food For Life Evaluation of Food for Life Pupil survey in local commission areas: Food for Life’s impact on primary school children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables. Jones M et al. 2015  have a higher school meal take up (56,1% vs 49,9%) and the school meal take up is associated with higher fruit and vegetable consumption for the pupils. The pupils in FFL schools are more likely to like school meals. The multi-faceted and comprehensive approach to food education adopted by FFL schools shows what can be achieved when schools do it right.