Updated: Aug 4, 2022
Recent data from the Broken Plate report highlight how our food system has evolved over time, but not for the greater good! With the increased availability and affordability of unhealthy food, consuming it is now the norm, which is contributing to increased levels of obesity and diet related diseases.
Much needs to be done to support diets that are healthy for us, and schools can play a huge role in helping to make this happen!
Because children consume on average 30% of their energy intake for the day during school hours, putting schools in an ideal position to play a key role in influencing healthy eating habits.
Not only that, more families are with a tighter food budget, having to spend more money on housing, energy and other essentials. This increases the need to turn to cheaper, unhealthier options or, in many cases, having to go hungry. According to the Broken Plate Report, 7 million adults living in households reported food insecurity in April. This puts further emphasis on how important schools are for helping children get sufficient nutrition to grow up healthily, focus in class and reach their potential, particularly as it might be the only meal some kids are getting that day!
What makes a healthy school meal?
Across the UK, mandatory standards are in place to ensure the nutritional quality of the food served is adequate and supports their health and learning.
These standards encourage variety, help to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce intake of foods and drinks high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, across the school day.
Some KS2 pupils are entitled to free school meals (FSM) and all KS1 pupils are entitled to universal infant free school meals (UiFSM). Although Government has recently increased funding for this, with food prices rising, more is needed to ensure the food served meets these standards!
How is this monitored?
Proper monitoring of compliance isn't currently in place to ensure consistent quality of school meals across the UK. In England, it was announced by the Government in February 2022 that schools will be asked to voluntarily publish statements on the arrangements for their ‘whole school approach’ to school food, however, this is set to become mandatory. Furthermore, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced that they will be conducting a pilot with the Department for Education (DofE) to design and test a new assurance system for School Food Standards.
The Broken Plate report suggests that 25% of state schools in England and 47% of state schools in Scotland are known to be meeting school food nutritional requirements, as this is the proportion of schools accredited by Food for Life.
However, here at School Health UK, we understand that there are many more schools and school caterers that are working hard to ensure their menus are meeting the standards. We visit thousands of schools up and down the country and quite often, the food served is the least of our worries when it comes to lunchtime. Despite this, it is outlined in the report that further monitoring of compliance must be carried out to ensure that children are accessing a nutritious school lunch.
How can we help?
We offer an accreditation that includes menu review and/or menu development that perfectly aligns with the school food standards and is practical for your school - taking the hassle away from you and your catering team. Find out more about working with us to develop a menu that is varied, nutritiously balanced, exciting and TASTY!
Find out how your school menu can become accredited by School Health UK.