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Plan to reform school meals revealed

15 | 07 | 13

A new strategy to improve the quality of meals served in the UK's schools has been revealed. 

The School Food Plan was written by the founders of the Leon restaurant chain Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent and has received the support of the secretary of state for education Michael Gove. 

It hopes that by boosting the standard of the food in schools, both the health and academic performance of children will be improved. This will certainly be of interest to catering equipment suppliers, as schools are an important client for many firms.

Tackling obesity 

According to the School Food Plan, there a number of problems caused by poor quality dinners being served to students. One of the most worrying is obesity, as approximately one in five children are overweight by the time they leave primary school at the age of 11. 

The plan warned that the cost of treating obesity-related illnesses is already placing a heavy burden on the NHS - roughly £10 billion annually - and if action isn't taken to ensure children are healthier this will only increase in the coming years.

Ensuring students are eating nutritious food while at school could go a long way to achieving this.

Increasing take-up

Mr Dimbleby and Mr Vincent claimed the standard of school lunches has improved dramatically in recent years, although they believe a number of schools are still serving food that is "too bland, boring and beige".

However the real issue may be that not enough children are eating school dinners. According to the plan, just 43 per cent of students consume a school-cooked lunch, while the majority of the remaining 57 per cent either bring in food prepared at home or buy a meal outside of school. 

This is worrying, as those children that buy their own dinner tend to purchase junk food, while the contents of a packed lunch are often unhealthy. According to the plan, just one per cent of meals prepared by parents at home meet the nutritional standards that apply to school food. 

Indeed, the problem of students buying unhealthy meals has become so severe in Salford, Greater Manchester that the local council has considered imposing a regulation that will ban fast food outlets from selling to youngsters before 5pm.

Good for schools 

The School Food Plan claimed improving the food they serve will be good for schools themselves, as well as making children healthier. It said that approximately £1 billion is spent on packed lunches annually and if this was invested in school dinners instead, it could have a significant positive impact.

Furthermore, many schools are actually losing money on the meals they serve, as take-up of more than 50 per cent is required to simply break even.

What needs to be done?

To try and solve these problems the School Food Plan has laid out a detailed set of recommendations. These include making school meals more nutritious and appetising, as well as serving them in a pleasant and welcoming environment. 

There is also a focus on educating head teachers about how to improve their school's "food culture" and making cooking lessons a mandatory part of the education curriculum.

"We hope this plan will help to create a generation of children who enjoy food that makes them healthier, more successful and, most importantly, happier," Mr Dimbleby and Mr Vincent concluded.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801612327-ADNFCR

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