Headlines: September 8th, 2004

The government needs to intervene on a number of fronts to ensure school meals provide a healthy and nutritious diet for a high proportion of children, according to report today from the Child Poverty Action Group. ‘Recipe for change – a good practice guide to school meals’, is the first study of its kind, drawing together practical examples from across the country.

Schools, local authorities and campaign groups have contributed to the report, which is edited by Carrieanne Hurley and Ashley Riley. They show that where imaginative policies have been introduced the quality and take up of school meals has improved.

CPAG’s Chief Executive Kate Green said, “School meals play an important role in promoting healthy eating and tackling disadvantage. ‘Recipe for change’ is the first time that good practice has been brought together to show that unless real changes in policy are introduced by the government, school meals will continue to fail children.”

Contributions include one from Hull City Council, which has introduced free school meals for all primary school children and from a school in Sunderland, which is overcoming the stigma associated with school meals using ‘eye scanners. A piece on regeneration programmes in East London reports the involvement of the whole local community in making a real and lasting difference.

Recommendations made by the editors include making food and nutrition part of the national curriculum and an improvement in the government’s basic nutritional standards. The report encourages all schools to have a ‘food policy’ and a school meals plan with minimum requirements for take up of school meals. It also argues that the government should make innovation grants available for schools to enable them to introduce new systems to improve the take up of meals. It also calls on all local education authorities to ensure that schools have nutritional action group of students and representatives from the school’s caterers and for catering staff to be more highly valued both in terms of pay and conditions