Thursday, December 17, 2009

Watch this video with The Saturdays promoting Really Good School Dinner

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thought provoking article on School dinners in todays guardian

Read Rebecca Smithers excellent article "Dinners for the Chop" which appears in todays Education Guardian.

The Commercialisation of Childhood

This long awaited report was finally published yesterday. Its key findings are as follows :

"The children's commercial market is already large, is continuing to grow and is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its activities, in particular through new media. This trend seems set to continue;

The children's market does not exist in isolation. Notwithstanding considerable social change in recent decades, parents continue to play the pivotal role in how children are affected by the market, although peers also have a considerable influence, especially as children grow into adolescence;

So far as the impact of the commercial world on children is concerned the evidence shows a complex picture from which it is not possible to draw simple conclusions about cause or effect. The evidence does not validate either the notion that commercialisation is creating a 'toxic childhood', nor the notion that children are highly sophisticated consumers able to navigate with ease through a benign market;

Children are also increasingly aware of commercial forces in public places and in schools, and there is significant commercial activity going on within schools."

I can't be alone in feeling deeply disappointed. We owe it to our children to offer them protection from the increasingly sophisticated techniques advertisers use on them to increase their profits. Children are not fair game and they should be left alone with their childhood.

I will be reading the full report and will post later on it

The Commericialisation of Childhood

The children's commercial market is already large, is continuing to grow and is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its activities, in particular through new media. This trend seems set to continue;

The children's market does not exist in isolation. Notwithstanding considerable social change in recent decades, parents continue to play the pivotal role in how children are affected by the market, although peers also have a considerable influence, especially as children grow into adolescence;

So far as the impact of the commercial world on children is concerned the evidence shows a complex picture from which it is not possible to draw simple conclusions about cause or effect. The evidence does not validate either the notion that commercialisation is creating a 'toxic childhood', nor the notion that children are highly sophisticated consumers able to navigate with ease through a benign market;

Children are also increasingly aware of commercial forces in public places and in schools, and there is significant commercial activity going on within schools.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Look who I met today!

The very lovely Colin Jackson came to a special round table to discuss the importance of school food.

Welcome news in pre budget report

Delighted to hear that the government are extending the criteria for the eligibility of free school meals. read all about it on on newsround or if you prefer catersearch

There will also be 7 additional pilots for free school meals for all children at primary schools.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Children and Young Peoples plan

Below is the submission I have made on behalf of Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools to get improving secondary school meals as a priority area for Merton.

Submission for Merton's Children and Young Peoples Plan.

I am writing on behalf of Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools to contribute to CYPP 2010.

We note that childhood obesity in Merton is 2% above the national average and welcome the fact it has been chosen as a priority for the authority to overcome. We believe a key way to tackle this would be to set ourselves the challenge of ensuring that every single secondary school student in Merton has the opportunity to eat a decent, freshly prepared school lunch in a comfortable area without being asked to chosse between school activities or lunch.

Merton Parents congratulates the borough for the fantastic investment it has made in school kitchens in the primary schools and the improved relationships with the caterers which has led to an increase of fruit and vegetables being consumed by primary schools children. We now want to see the same passion and enthusiasm and investment in the community secondary schools.

We are encouraged by the start that contracts manager Tom Proctor has made.However unless head teachers are able to either consider timetabling the lunch period or investing in much larger dining rooms many children and young people will be denied a good lunch.
We believe that putting improving secondary school dinners as a priority will help in the following three areas

1. Raising standards. Recent research has shown secondary school students showed a 15% rise in both concentration and learning in the afternoon in schools that improved the lunchtime. You can find details of the study here

2. Addressing poverty issues. At the moment many free school meal students do not take them up because they percieve the food to be worthess. Those that are registered are often not fed because they are put off by the length of the queues and do not wish to sacrifice their break to queuing. Some schools also expect students to see staff or take part in extra curricula activities at lunch times which then makes it impossible for students to take a school lunch. Given the harsh economic climate we would like to see schools do all they can to maximise take up of free school meals. Also increasing take up will ensure meal prices will remain relatively low for all students.

3.Obesity agenda. There is research that shows children who eat a school dinner eat more fruit and vegetables than children who eat packed lunches. It will be easier to teach PSHE if the school can demonstrate in practise that healthy eating can be tasty.

4. Would help us meet local authority targets NI52 and help with Ofsted inspections.

We do recognise the many pressure that the local authority is under and appreciate that difficult decisions sometimes have to be made for the good of the whole. However we strongly believe that choosing to put the development of secondary school dinners as a priority for the CYPP would benefit children, young people, their parents, teachers and the PCT.

Finally, we would ask you to have a look at the aims and objectives for secondary school meals that Merton Parents has agreed with the authority.

Thank you for inviting us to the stakeholder event and encouraging us to participate. We look forward to working with you in 2010. Please do not hesitate to ask if you need any further information or references.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Letter in defence of the free school meals trial in Islington

Not sure if free school meals for all is the way forward? Read the letter below and see if it changes your mind. It is a letter sent to the Islington Tribune where it looks like the free school meal trial is being threatened.

Dear Tribune,

Party politics is getting in the way of children's health.

Certainly, Labour were sharp to take advantage of a temporary disarray in the Lib Dems to force through their plan for universal free school meals. But the Lib Dems are being petty and vengeful in threatening to scrap the scheme if they are re-elected.

Free school meals deserve the support of every political party. They are the principal weapon we have to stop the rapid rise in childhood obesity. The obesity epidemic in Britain is our Number One public health problem. It affects the vast majority of families, the affluent as well as the poor.

We have to cut obesity now before we suffer an epidemic in diabetes too --- for that is coming along a few years behind. Diabetes is a very expensive disease to treat. It means amputations, blindness, kidney failure. Having millions of diabetics, needing lifelong care from childhood, would break the bank of the NHS.

Primary school meals are a cost-effective investment in future health. Spending money on children's diet now will save us a fortune in a decade's time. Islington Primary Care Trust should remind the Council of these hard economic facts.

So we need to help all Islington's children. Universal free meals in primary schools are the most effective instrument we have to do this.

They have been a great success in Scotland, not only in increasing take up, but also in weaning kids off breakfasts of Mars bars and afternoon snacks of chips. The programme affects what children eat outside school, as well as inside. This is critical because research shows that children begin spending their pocket money on junk food from age nine!

The Libs Dems are hinting they will put the scrapping of free meals into their election manifesto. I urge them to reconsider. Indeed, I hope all parties will commit themselves to continuing the plan.

But the message to Islington parents is clear. Vote for whichever party you like, so long as it promises to continue providing free school meals to all primary school children. That would not just be good of your pocketbook now, it also would be good for your children in the long term.

Jack Winkler

Prof J T Winkler
Director, Nutrition Policy Unit
London Metropolitan University

Friday, December 4, 2009

Empty plates!

Left it a bit later to get to dining room so this was all there was left to see!The children told me that they were in fact eating 'seconds' which I suppose is a good old fashioned school dinner tradition. Must get to the hall earlier next week to capture more pictures of the actual food.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

City Academy in Hackney moves to "family" style eating arrangements

The City Academy in Hackney have decided to introduce family style groupings for their school meal service. Students will be put into groups and each member will be expected to complete a 'chore'. The old adage, " you can't choose your family" is especially appropriate as it is staff that will be doing the grouping.

Looking forward to hearing how it works out! Well done to the staff for trying to find ways of overcoming the problems that lunch breaks pose in our schools. There is an interview with a pupil here and a report here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The horrors of product placement

Best selling author Chris Cleave has written a brilliant and funny account of what product placement could look like. Do give it a read by clicking here and then rush to send your consultation response in by clicking here. The clock is ticking and the sneaky way the government are handling this mean we are now half way through consultation period.

The wonderful Green Wing writer, James Henry has also spoken out against product placement. I heartily recommend his blog to you.

Don't need dinner ladies - employ a chef according to Daily Mail

"employing an experienced chef saves the time and trouble it takes to retrain dinner ladies accustomed to reheating junk food."

Interesting article in the Daily Mail which manages to attack jamie Oliver and derides School Food Trust attemepts to improve school food and yet still celebrate good wholesome food in schools. It is about the remarkable achievents of BBC Radio 4 Food and farming award winner John Rankin at Penair School in Cornwall

See for yourself here

School does sound amazing! Wonder if I could arrange a visit?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Merton Council Children and Young Person Plan 2010

I spent yesterday morning with key staff from Merton Childrens's services and members of voluntary groups being consulted on the priorities for children and young people. The authority have to produce a plan which they publish.

One of their key priorities is reducing obesity. Merton's rates are above avaerage. As you would expect I made the case for Merton to ensure every secondary school student will have the time and space to eat a meal every day which is both tasty and freshly prepared. There was no disagreement but there was no clear agreement on how we make that happen. Tom Proctor was there from the contracts department and I know he is really doing his bit to ensure we get better food provision but the elephant in the room was how we persuade the Heads to look at their timetabling so all kids get a chance to eat in a civivlised way.

After we finished we had a lovely lunch and of course we had a table and chair for each person, enough time to eat and we didn't have to choose between eating or going to see a collegue. The food did n't run out and nobody made us stand in line for 15 mins. How different from a secondary school lunch at a Merton school!

The next step for us is to produce a written submission for the Childrens and young person plan to see if we can get our secondary school aims enshrined. We are meeting with the contracts department on friday 4 Dec to look at the timetable for going out to tender for a new catering company. We now have governors from each of the secondary schools who are deeply unhappy with the food to come on to a secondary school sub committee. 2010 is going to be the year Merton secondary school meals get dramatically better.

We are going to have to return to some good old fashioned campaigning to speed things up! Please join us by clicking here

If you have any points you would like us to raise about any Merton School dinner issue, primary or secondary, let me know by Thursday 3 Dec.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Todays school dinner

No time to comment today as I need to get ready for tonights Merton Parents committee meeting

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One filmakers response to product placement (NB This clip is not suitable for children contains bad language)

Edublog awards 2009

I am nominating Stepahie Woods at School Food Matters for best new blog for Edublog 2009 awards

Stephanie does a great job flying the fact for real food education and uses the sfm blog to spread the word and to bring people together.

Fingers crossed the nice people at edublog agree!

Green Wing writer stands up against product placement

Thank you for the feedback on yesterdays post. Turns out I need to go back to the drawing board re the vlog and sort out sound levels!

Meanwhile I wanted to tell you about a blog I found from the writer of The Green Wing. Turns out he thinks product placement is a horrible idea. please read his original post here.

I contacted him after reading this and he very kindly blogged again on the subject directing people who object to the Childrens Food Campaign website

This campaign has brought me into contact with all sorts of people I wouldn't normally meet. Whilst cooking dinner I got a call from the US Guild of Writers. They are bitterly opposed to product placement as they have first hand experience of the interference and pressure it brings. They are very kindly going to give us a statement about their experiences and encourage everyone to oppose it.

I know this seems a long way from school dinners but one of the big problems we have is the pernicious affect advertising has on childrens expectations of food. If children are constatntly bombarded with marketing and advertising for high fat, salt and sugar foods we shouldn't be surprised that good food education and health promotion iniatives such as Change 4 life fail to get through.

Am teaching in school tomorrow so will post some new pictures of school dinners.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My first vlogg

If you don't want to see product placement on UK TV click here to send a message to the government. Once you have done that please can you send the link to your friends and colleagues?

Many thanks!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The" Really Good School Dinner" campaign launches in Sheffield

Below is a press release from The School Food Trust about an inspired initiative to raise money from our UK school dinners to be able to buy a school dinner for a child in the developing world.Would your school be interested in doing this? If you are a headteacher this would be a great example of "community cohesion " that you could cite on your SEF whilst also delivering some excellent PSHE lessons! Have a read and let me know if you would like to take it further.

A Sheffield school today led the way nationally in a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) partnership campaign in the fight to end world hunger. Tapton School is trailblazing the Really Good School Dinner campaign ahead of its national live week in January 2010, having raised over £330 in 10 pences for the cause already.

Sheffield City Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Lifelong Learning Cllr. Andrew Sangar, joined pupils for lunch at Tapton School in Sheffield to urge schools across the UK to sign up for the Really Good School Dinner, where for one week in January 2010, each time a pupil buys a school meal, they donate an extra 10 pence. This is enough to buy a whole school meal for a child in a developing country, and by consequence, an education. Many such children otherwise have to work to feed themselves.

Schools across the country are now being invited to register to take part by clicking here

Year 10 student, Akram Ahmed, who contributed the first 10p of the day, said: "I've donated my money because every six seconds people are dying in poorer countries. People are also dying from obesity in this country and school meals are healthy food, so the Really Good School Dinner is helping people here as well as in less developed countries."

Cllr. Sangar, added: “I know that the charity was overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of the Tapton children so I’m delighted that they have been chosen to lead the campaign nationally. It makes me proud that a Sheffield school has set an example for children across the rest of the country to follow next year.”

The Really Good School Dinner is a partnership campaign between The School Food Trust and the WFP, in which school children are invited to buy one, give one free. Every 10p donated by children goes to the WFP’s School Meals Programme. At the same time the campaign encourages children in this country to enjoy school lunches, which are now governed by nutritional standards, guaranteeing pupils a healthy meal.

Tapton School Headteacher, Mr David Bowes, commented: "As a healthy school, we take it very seriously and encourage pupils to make the right choices in what to eat. So it seemed absolutely right to take part in the Really Good School Dinner. It makes youngsters think not just about their own health but about others who are less fortunate.

"Our pupils are very blessed to go home and go to bed having eaten. It is so important for them to understand that many other children won't get an education if they don't eat. We will do all we can to raise their awareness of this issue.

"The campaign is a huge education vehicle for schools and is so easy to do. It brings together issues within so many subjects, such as maths, geography, science, economics and PHSE."

In support of the Really Good School Dinner, Nick Clegg, Leader of Liberal Democrats and MP for Sheffield Hallam said: “I think the campaign is an excellent way of raising money to feed hungry children across the world but also raising awareness amongst young people about people less fortunate than themselves.

“What better place to teach the next generation that every child has a right to healthy meals and a good education. Good luck in raising as much money as possible and I hope the lunch is a great success.”

Really Good School Dinner is open to any school in England. School Food Trust Chief Executive Judy Hargadon said: “This campaign highlights two hugely important issues: the importance to children’s well-being in the UK of eating a healthy school lunch and the increasing problem of world food insecurity.

“The enthusiasm by participating schools during the first Really Good School Dinner was amazing. Taking part is easy, good fun and addresses these important issues, so I encourage schools to join in and help make this Really Good School Dinner an unprecedented success.”

The first Really Good School Dinner in January 2009 saw more than 118,000 school dinners eaten by children in schools around the country, raising a total of £11,855 for WFP.

Caroline Hurford, spokesperson for the World Food Programme, commented: "Thanks to the Really Good School Dinner, more than 100,000 children have already eaten healthy school meals. We're hopeful that we can feed even more children following the next campaign. The fullest physical and intellectual development must be the right of every child."

Participating schools receive an information pack including lesson plans, international recipes, case studies, campaign posters and more.

Some school food pictures

Apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos but I was keen for you to see our lovely mid day supervisors enjoying a school lunch. They have to pay for them - it's not a perk! but they were keen to support national school meals week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I had a great day on Saturday at the Warrington Governors conference. I spoke on behalf of The School Food Trust about the role governors can play in sorting out school lunches.

I was really impressed with the dedication and determination of the governors who turned up. It is a pretty thankless job being a school governor yet up and down the land there are lots of unsung heroes who play a key role in helping schools get their act together.

There was a very impressive speaker from HMI - David Moore who gave a brilliant presentation on community cohesion.

The key message I delivered in my speech can be summed up by the following quote from Henry Ford

"Most people will spend more time and energy in going around problems than in trying to solve them."

Lots of schools spend an enormous amount of time responding to problems based on an inadequate lunch time provision. The time and energy they spend on dealing with behaviour management , policing the lunch break, sorting out problems, dealing with poor concentration in afternoon lessons etc is greater than the time and energy needed to sort out providing a decent lunchtime experience.

However difficult the problems facing your school at lunchtime the School Food Trust has resources to help!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thank you!

Just back from a visit to St Thomas of Canterbury school where there was a special NFU workshop going on for the lucky year 4 children. The workshop was part of a special presentation for ISS Caterhouse who have achieved Food for Life Partnership Bronze award for the catering in all of Merton's primary schools. Congratulations to Mark Davis from Iss who has pushed this through. It was most heartening to hear him say that he is already working on how they are going to achieve silver status. It was great to see a senior councillor and staff from Merton Council there. Fantastic to see everyone working together on this.

Final thank you of course must go to all the school cooks in Merton. Thank you so much for all your hard work. It can't be the easiest job in the world and we have have asked you to make some very big changes. Thanks for sticking with it and for making sure that every child has the opportunity to eat a tasty school lunch.

Am off to Warrington in a minute where I will be speaking at a school governors conference on the importance of food in school. Enjoy the last day of National School Meal Week!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The three new Board members for the School Food Trust

• Margaret Barrett – a Managing Director of the Cambridge Development Partnership working with organisations in the public and private sector. Margaret began her career as a Home Economics teacher, has several years experience as a university lecturer, and has also held senior positions in the NHS.
“Serving on the board of the SFT will allow me to use my experience in Management, Health and Education to improve the health and well being of young people. Contributing to the agenda to improve school food and life time food education is a privilege I look forward to."

• Dr James Bunn – a general paediatrician with a long term interest in nutrition, who has worked in the UK and internationally.
“As a doctor looking after children in both hospital and in the community, I hope to bring my clinical experience to the Board. There are many long term benefits of developing healthy eating habits during childhood, and the school has a pivotal role in promoting this.”

Fiona Gately – a senior executive with over 20 years experience in marketing for the food industry and an adviser on food and health issues. She now manages advocacy campaigns around food issues for business and public sector clients.
“The challenge over the last three years has been to get the new standards in place, so our kids are getting the balanced meals they need. The challenge for next three years will be to get more children to eat them, and to make food a central part of the school culture and kids’ education.”

I am looking forward to meeting them. In the meantime if anyone has any ideas about who can take over from Prue as Chair - please send them to look at the job ad here

National School Meal Week

Sorry for the delay in posting. Have had horrible internet problem which has stopped me from blogging.

The week got off to a great start got with a visit to Dundonald primary School so I could give an assembly to celebrate national school meals week. The children were very attentive and fascinated by my slides of school dinners from days of old. They were also incredibly interested in the pictures of school meals from different countries and were surprisingly good at matching the dinner to the country. Mrs Duffy, the head teacher does a great job of promoting school meals and including as much cooking and growing as she can into the school year. The children were all remarkably well behaved from the smallest reception class to the mature year 6 children.

On Tuesday The Children's Food campaign hosted a round table on how we could get every school to teach food growing. Lots of big organisations supported our aim of getting food growing on the school curriculum. Merton parents has always believed that real and genuine food education will make it easier to persuade children to eat more of the foods that are good for them. Stephanie from School Food Matters was able to show us some pictures from a great project she has set up connecting an inner city school with no growing space with Westminster Cathedral garden. Sign up to her blog if you want to follow their progress.

Today Wednesday I went to the "Health and Well Being Conference in Birmingham NEC." where I gave a presentation on how to work with parents. I got the chance to listen to secondary Head, Marcia Tweltree give a fantastic presentation on how she dramaically improved lunchtimes at her school. Re aranging the timetable so every child gets a 30 min break has been key to her achievements. Marcia is a fantastic speaker who tells it warts and all. I personally think that every secondary school head and senior management team in the land should be made to watch this presentation! One of my next Merton parent website projects is to work out how we can put up a selection of good powerpoint presentations to share with other Heads/governors/caterers

Another highlight today was the opportunity to meet Arnold Fewell - the brains behind this years National School Meals Week. We have been in regular contact via twitter but today was the first time we had met in person. I think he has done a remarkable job of bringing LACA into the 21st century.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New website

We have been working for a while on updating the Merton Parents for better Food in School website. It is now respectable enough to be seen but still needs some work! Plaese have a look by clicking here and then give me your feedback.

The original website was done by Angus Deuchar. He had children at Holy Trinity and came forward at one of our early meetings to offer his services. He very modestly offered to set up a website for us, "unless we could get someone else better to do it" His kind offer led to him spending hours and hours at his computer and nearly 4 years as a committee member. His work on the website was a crucial weapon in the early days of spreading our campaigning to all of the Merton schools. The existence of the website meant that we had a huge number of journalists on national papers following our progress. We would never have got the coverage we did without Angus. So big, big thank you! I am so sad to see him stand down from the committee and appreciate all his hard work.

The new website has been designed by Juliet Blackledge who also designed our lovely Merton Parent logo.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Eating from prison trays

It still amazes me when I see children expected to eat their lunch from horrible plastic prison style trays. We had a big argument about this in London Borough of Merton back in 2005/6.

Below is an article I wrote back then to persuade every school to change over. The kids comments are really interesting!If anyone is interested I have written a paper aimed at Headteachers/Govs to persuade them why they should make the change.Contact me if you want a copy.

Fears about replacing flight trays.

"I would not want to eat out of a prison tray. Would you? So why do we think it’s the right thing for children?"
Prue Leith, Chair of the School Food Trust

In 2006 the London Borough of Merton replaced flight trays with a simple plain black tray and white plates and bowls. Some schools had a number of concerns:

“But the children like flight trays”:

Undoubtedly some of the children were happy to eat from flight trays and did n’t see getting rid of them as a priority. They had become so common place in schools and we know that some children find change unsettling. However as schools the changes they began to report that most children preferred the replacement plates as it makes them feel less “babyish”. The vast majority of the children consulted by Merton Parents for Better food in Schools over this issue were happy to use plates with only a small minority preferring flight trays.

Here are some of the children’s comments:

I don't like the plastic trays at school because they look a bit grungy and dirty. I prefer to eat my dinner off a plate which has been cleaned properly and doesn't have knife cuts in it. They make you feel like you're in hospital and the food tastes of plastic. You wouldn't expect to eat off a tray in a cafe or restaurant so why would you at school.
Yr 6 Pupil

The trays were disgusting – there was often old bits of food on them as they weren’t washed properly and then our food was put on top of that. It was difficult to use your knife and fork in the little holes.”
Luke, aged 8

I would rather have a normal plate because the food gets all mushed up on the
trays - especially the main course - because there is not enough room. It
also makes me feel quite babyish.
Ceridwen, age 11

"Eating from the trays is like eating from dog bowls"
Harriet, aged 11

You can get more food onto a plate. You get bowls for pudding. It is more like at home.
Thomas, aged 9

“The plastic trays were grubby and dirty...the food looks much nicer on the china plates”
Lewis, age 8

“ I found it disturbing having your pudding next to your dinner. I prefer real plates.”
Ryan, year 5

I prefer real plates – its more hygienic and you feel more homey, (normal)
Sophia, year 5

“When we had trays I used to see people eating their pudding before their dinner.I prefer to use plates. I think other schools should use plates like you do at home.

Natasha, year 5
“The food looks nicer if you have it on a plate.”
Dom, aged 10

Plastic food trays are for babies.
James Richardson, year 8

“Our Children won’t manage.”

Some schools feared that children wouldn’t cope with carrying a plate. Initially children needed help and guidance from mid day supervisors in making the change over but most learnt how to manage quickly. Schools are used to teaching children new skills so this was no different. Interestingly many special schools outside the borough but attended by Merton pupils (including a residential visual impairment unit, Linden Lodge, and a specialist school for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders). Forum School, Dorset ) use plates and bowls to create a civilised pleasant dining room. Some schools in Merton have taken the decision to allow the youngest children to use flight trays but others use plates through out the school

Here are some comments from mid day supervisors:

“Having supervised at school during lunchtime I have seen firsthand the huge improvement of the children’s table manners where they now have plates and bowls rather than those ridiculous trays. The children use their knives and forks correctly – the trays made this difficult so they inevitably used their fingers. Many children used to complain that some of their pudding was mixed in with their dinner.The whole dining experience has greatly improved.”
Mid day Supervisor and teaching assistant, Di Williams, Poplar Primary School

I ate the Christmas dinner and there is no way I would have done if the food had been served on one of those impersonalised plastic trays. I did have to witness and help to clear up many 'mixed dinners' on the flight/prison trays. The children were distressed when it happened and nothing similar has occurred since the change over to plates.
Mid day Supervisor and teaching assistant, Poplar Primary Emma Harper

A good reason for getting rid of prison style trays,
is the food can become mixed up when being served and this obviously is
very unappetising.
Parent and former mid day supervisor, Sandra Beale

I was a mid-day supervisor for 8 years, over which time the dinnertime team were constantly appalled at the quality of the food served up and the way in which it was presented. The issue of the quality of the food has now been addressed so surely the logical next step in order to completed the transition to a civilised lunchtime experience for the children, which in some cases may be the only time they sit down at a table with other people to eat, must be the way the food is presented... on a plate!
Linda Ludlow, teaching assistant Poplar Primary School

“It creates extra washing up

Yes it did. However many catering staff reported that it was much easier to clean plates and bowls than flight trays. Even staff who were nervous about making the change reported back that it did not lead to an increase in time. Staff found it easier to serve the food directly on to plates than filling up compartments on flight trays. It reduced the problem of puddings and main courses getting splashed over each other.

“The plates and bowls are easier to wash than the flight trays. They are also easier to serve the food on to.”
School Cook, Hatfeild Primary Celia Kelly

It is very encouraging to see the move back to plates and bowls to serve school lunches and I particularly welcome the return of white plates as it certainly displays food to its best advantage. Plates and bowls certainly bring a more homely atmosphere to lunchtimes
The flight trays may have been suitable at the time they were introduced but they have certainly outlived their usefulness.
ISS Caterhouse area manager, Merton , Roger Denton

Views from teaching staff

We made the switch from the “prison – style” trays mainly because it made the food look so unappetising. Having the main meal next to the dessert was unappealing. We have haven’t experienced any significant difficulties making the move to plates. The children took a little while to adjust to the new plates sliding on the trays that they are now using. The children prefer the plates and we have seen a big improvement in their table manners.
Deputy Head, Hatfeild Primary Stuart Atherton

I have seen an improvement in the way the children behave in the dinning hall since they have started using plates. As always we encourage children to be respectful to each other as well as to adults, but we equally need to show children respect in the way we treat them. This can be shown through the equipment that we give them to use!! If we give them plates we are giving a positive message that we value them and we value what they eat and that they are important to us.
Teacher, Poplar Primary School Wendy Ellis

Views from parents.

“Its not just about getting the food right – as important as that is – but children need to learn how to eat a meal properly, with a knife and fork, off a proper plate in a pleasant dining environment. Making them eat off these horrid plastic trays is giving a false impression of a real meal and making it more difficult for the children to enjoy their food and learn good habits for the future.
Parent Governor, Poplar Primary School, Paula Sutcliff

I am often appalled by the lack of table manners and basic skills in using cutlery. I believe that using the proper tools for a meal, i.e. a plate, knife, fork and spoon, is fundamental in teaching our children how to eat properly. I cannot bear to see children who appear to be completely lost it they need to actually cut something on their plate. Also, carrying a plate should not be difficult for children who are old enough to eat school meals.
Basically, I think that children eating at school should use the same utensils that they should be using at home.
Parent, Hatfeild Primary School, Dia Garrido

The trays reminded me of the plates used for toddlers - surely by primary school we want to encourage children to adopt more 'grown-up' eating habits. The trays give the impression of serving of 'rations' rather than a nutritious, appealing meal.
Parent, Julie Johns, Richards Secondary School

My personal feeling is that you give them a trough, they'll eat like pigs- , they will live down to our expectations, it's to do with convenience, a bit like factory farming. However if you treat them like they are worthy of effort, with proper plates, maybe even calming music, they they will live up to our expectations, enjoy their meals, feel valued, and hopefully in return, value the effort from those who have provided for them.
Parent, Wimbledon Park Primary, Ali Keen

Both my boys go to Wimbledon Park Primary School where they have already replaced the trays with plates and both boys think this is much better so you are preaching to the converted, however the key issue for me is food quality and I would rather the school caterer spent money on improving food quality than the implements however I do agree that separate plates are a much better option.
Parent from Wimbledon Park Primary,Anne Davies

And the last word goes to Stephen Black - the contracts manager

We have found that since the introduction of trays, plates and bowls in the schools it has improved the presentation of the food to the children, they can see their food clearly and it encourages them to try to eat properly using knives and forks and helps to develop a calmer dining experience.
It is necessary to engage headteachers as younger children need more supervision and assistance at the the servery and to their table, midday supervisors have some involvement as the there are more dishes to be stacked in trolleys in the hall and catering staff also need extra time as there is more washing to be done. However it is now recognised within our schools that it has been a positive improvement for both children and staff and on the general dining experience.

Contracts Manager London Borough of Merton, Steve Black

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Early start today! Just finishing my presentation for a Good Food Training for London event "The Role of Food in Schools". Hoping my children don't spot me hunched over the computer as I am always on at them not to leave their homework to the last minute! Anyway, just have time to upload pictures of yesterdays school dinner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Childrens obesity rates slowing done

According to National Heart Forum report childhood obesity rates are slowing down. This is great news! I am keen to know which of the interventions is responsible. The battle is not yet won so we must make sure we continue to campaign for good food and that we still protect kids from junk food industry. We still have a long way to go to get every child eating 5 portions of fruit and veg so the war isn't won yet. However this could be a good time to say thank you to dinner ladies, heads, school nurses, School Food Trust, PCT's and everyone else who has been instrumental in changing childrens diet.

Have a look at childrens food campaign press release

See what the School Food Trust say here

Monday, November 2, 2009

National School Meals Week 8th -13 Nov 2009

Its not too late too sign up. Visit the website to get your school involved

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Really Good School Dinner

Below is a press release from The School Food Trust about a fantastic project they are running to support school meals in the developing world. Essentially its a BOGOF offer. Have a read below

The Really Good School Dinner Joins Fight Against World Hunger

-Year two of campaign set to raise £££thousands for the world’s poorest children and increase healthy school dinner take-up

- Schools invited to sign up here:

The School Food Trust, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Schools Minister and International Development Secretary, today join in support to launch registration for the Really Good School Dinner, inviting school children to buy one, give one free.

The unique campaign gives UK schools the chance to help children in some of the world’s poorest countries by adding just 10p extra to the price of their usual school meal. Every extra 10p donated goes to the WFP and is enough to pay for a whole meal for a child who might otherwise go hungry.

For one week next January pupils across the country will take part in this nationwide scheme that gives children in the developing world school meals and the chance of an education. Often, those children can’t go to school because they have to work to feed themselves. The campaign also encourages more pupils in this country to try school food, which is now governed by nutritional standards, so guarantees them a healthy meal.

The first Really Good School Dinner in January 2009 saw more than 118,000 school dinners eaten by children in schools around the country, raising a total of £11,855 for the WFP. Schools are invited to register now for January 2010 at

Schools Minister, Diana Johnson said: "The Really Good School Dinner campaign is an excellent way to encourage pupils to choose school lunches, which, thanks to the changes that we and the School Food Trust have made, are now high quality, packed with fresh ingredients and nutritious. At the same time, it gives every pupil the chance to help another less fortunate child overseas, and highlights the important global issue of world hunger.

"So the Really Good School Dinner means that pupils here will not only be benefiting from a healthy school lunch, but they will also be giving at the same time, and that's why I encourage schools to register and get involved."

International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander added: "We welcome this joint initiative between the World Food Programme and the School Food Trust. With global food prices so high, school feeding can play a role in developing countries to get girls and boys to regularly attend school.

"What's more, by linking different perspectives on a shared issue, the Really Good School Dinner campaign will also help raise awareness of development issues in UK schools and support the global dimension of the citizenship curriculum."

Once registered, pupils create on the Really Good School Dinner website their own school’s virtual dinner table complete with personalised characters. They receive an information pack including lesson plans, information about world hunger, a hunger map, international recipes, case studies, posters to help spread the word and a collection bucket wrap.

In the run up to the campaign going live (25 – 29 January 2010), schools go back to the Really Good School Dinner website and pledge how many meals they will be having. Schools with most pledges appear on the website’s top 10 league table.

When asked what difference the Really Good School Dinner would make to children at her school Josephine Mumo, the Headmistress of the Stara Rescue Centre School in Kenya said: "The school meals WFP provide in the slums go a long way towards getting children off the dangerous streets and into classrooms where they can learn on a full stomach."

School Food Trust Chief Executive Judy Hargadon, commented: “This campaign highlights two hugely important issues: the importance to children’s well-being in the UK of eating a healthy school lunch and the increasing problem of world food shortages.

“The enthusiasm by participating schools last time was amazing. Taking part is easy, good fun and addresses these important issues, so I encourage schools to join in and help make this Really Good School Dinner an unprecedented success.”

The World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.

Caroline Hurford, spokesperson for the World Food Programme, added: "Thanks to funds raised by the Really Good School Dinner, the World Food Programme has provided over 100,000 nutritious school meals for hungry children in the developing world. For the world's poorest children, free school meals do not just fill empty bellies but encourage children to attend school, giving them the chance of a brighter future."


The awkward squad

Had a great time yesterday giving a presentation on Merton Parents as part of an "Influencing Change" course for Shelia McKecknie Foundation (or SMK as they seem to be known now.)

They were a delightful crowd who all have a wealth of campaigning experience between them. Many of them work in fields where it is much tougher to get public opinion on side. Listening to them describe the work they currently do is very humbling.

Given the problems and difficulties facing so many in our society I am so glad these campaigners exist.

I was really struck by a comment one of the participants made in describing her campaign. She used the expression - "its not fair" which gets to the real heart of campaigning.

We need to create a climate where anyone who comes across an injustice - a lack of fairness - can get up and do something about it!

School food in merton wasn't improved by a few professionals who decided to make some changes. It was the nameless mums, dads and governors who wrote letters, went to meetings, collected signatures and demonstrated that made it happen. I am certain everyone who took part was motivated by a sense of fairness.

I really wish I had been able to meet Shelia Mckecknie - the person in whose memory SMK was set up. She was happy to describe herself as a "fully paid up member of the awkward squad" - I think we need badges!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do you live in Kingston?

If you are a Kingston resident then please sign this petition that Stephanie from School Food Matters has organised.

Background (Preamble):
With a new school meals contract due to start in September 2011, Kingston Council has an ideal opportunity, and the lead-time required, to make the borough’s school meal service a model of excellence for local authorities across the country.
We are residents of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and we care about what our children eat at school. We support School Food Matters in its call for Council to:

• invest in school kitchens to enable all schools to have fresh food cooked on site;

• invest in catering staff with training and enough paid hours to enable them to cook fresh food on site;

• write stringent contract specifications for the next tender document, committing to fresh produce from local* and sustainable sources;

• promote farm visits and cooking and growing programmes in schools to support food education, thus teaching vital life skills.

Click here to sign

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Free School meal pilots

These three remarkable women are all engaged in an exciting project which has the potential to affect the health of the next generation. Grace Phillip,(Islington Council) Jo Walker, (School Food Trust) and Sally Sunderland from (Newham) all spoke at the recent LACA seminar.

Jo gave the background story of the Dept of Children,Schools and Families and the Dept of Health finding some money to trial free school meals for all. £20 million has been invested by government and has been match funded by participating authorities.

The aim of the pilots is to find out if providing a nutritious tasty free school lunch will impact on
reducing obesity levels
improved behaviour and concentration in the classroom
changge of eating habits at home

It is a two year trial and will be evaluated by NatCen. The three authorities participating are London Borough of Newham, Durham and Wolverhampton (who are looking at enhanced eligibility criteria rather than free school meals for all)

Sally spoke next and described in detail the challenges her team in Newham faced.Investing in kitchen equipment,increasing staff levels, getting school staff involved were crucial in getting ready for September.

Grace described how Islington, who were not eligible for the government pilots, had gone ahead without any extra government funding.

All the speakers explained how well the trials had been recieved. The take up has been amazing. One of the more unexpected but welcome consequences has been how all the free school pilot areas theere has been an increase in secondary school uptake without any additional support or promotion. Newhan reported that their secondary school uptake has increased by 15% since they started giving away free school meals in the primaries.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Whose round is it?

I was on Sky news this morning talking about Stoke Bruerne Primary school who visit their local pub, The Boat Inn every day for lunch.It is a small school without a kitchen and a meal delivery service had been found to be uneconomic. Rather than just give up the head teacher, Mr Zakis made an arrangement with the local pub to organise a lunch service for the whole school based on the school food standards. The arrangement seems to be working really well with children and parents happy. You can read about it here

It would have been very easy for Mr Zakis to declare there was nothing he could do and leave the children to packed lunches yet his determination to meet the needs of his children meant he came up with an innovative solution.

Obviously the ideal solution is to have a proper kitchen capable of preparing fresh food and a dining room in every school. However given that this is not going to happen overnight some schools are going to have to use their imaginations.

If you know a school that hasn't got a kitchen can I suggest you point them to the School Food Trust website where they can find lots of advice on applying for funding and advice on making the most of small spaces.

It took over 20 years of neglect for the school meal service with no investment and rampant kitchen closures before we came to our senses. Of course we must act quickly but no one should be surprised if it takes us a while to make the dramatic improvements we need.

Finally, I just want to say sorry to the Head teacher Mr Zakis. Throughout the interview on Sky I referred to him as Ms. Sorry!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why is wednesday roast dinner day?

Is it just co incidence or are there are cultural reasons I am unaware of? Just seems to be lots of schools choose to serve roast dinners on a wednesday. Had a discussion with a year 3 class today about their favourite dinner. Roast was extremely popular with spghetti bols coming a close second. Pudding was wide open with kids finding it hard to choose.Quite a strong showing for sponge and custard but smoothies and fruit salad came a close second.

You can vote for your favourite here. Support National School Meals Week and get your childs school to sign up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Merton Parents for Better Food in School website

Have been working hard with Juliet and Paula to come up with a new improved website. We are trying to make it really useful for parents who want to find out more about school food and our campaigns. We are currently working hard to persuade the authority to invest in the community secondary schools. We need investment in the dining rooms to shorten queuing times and improve the whole environment. Students have also told us they want improvements with portion sizes, prices and the quality of the meals.
Alongside this we will be continuing to lobby and work for improvements in the primary school service.

We hope the new website will encourage parents and governors to get involved. We are planning to provide information that parents will find useful such as links to menus and prices, details of the food, procedures to claim free school meals and descriptions of nutritional standards.

Will be presenting a version of the site to the committee on Thursday evening.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mary's meals.

I have just come across Marys Meals - an international movement to set up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children getting an education. They provide 375,000 school meals in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

There are lots of school resources - both primary and secondary on the website. So any teachers looking for some last minute Harvest festival ideas and display take a look.

Thanks to Lindsay Graham for pointing this out to me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Soy story"

Thanks Friends of the Earth for such an amazing movie about the food chain.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More school dinner pics

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Danone stopped from advertising!

The Advertising Standards Authority have announced that Danone is no longer allowed to advertise its children's yoghurts as "scientifically proven to help your kids defences". It is difficult enough for parents to work out what to feed their children without the food industry making false claims for their products.

The ASA ruled that claims by Danone that their yoghurts could help protect against illness were not supported by evidence. The studies that the company were using did not back up their claims.They have ruled that the advert is "misleading and broke rules in relation to evidence and accuracy in advertising.

It is not the first time they have been told this. back in 2006 the company were forced to pull an advert for making the claim " Actimel helps to support their natural defences" In 2008 the ASA upheld 2 complaints that Danones's website did not provide full consumer access to the scientific studies referenced in its adverts.

Looks like the sight of the actimel bottle skipping to the cheers from children will not be seen on our screens for the time being

Well done to the Advertising Standards Authority who have put the needs of children and their families above the needs of the food industry to make more profits. Now what about tackling some of those dubious health claims on the front of sugary breakfast cereals and on those so called energy drinks?

Meeting Nick Herbert MP

I am looking forward to attending a round table "Reform" dinner this evening with Nick Herbert MP - Shadow Secretary of State for Environment. There should be food writers, campaigners and business leaders there. The theme of the dinner is food security. Will be sure to take my camera and will report back on the discussion.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Free school meal trials in London

The London borough of Newham has had a great month trialling free school meals for all its primary school pupils. The take up has been huge with one school reporting 98%. This is such a good idea and I hope politicians are watching carefully. You can read more about how the trial is going here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The launch of the Camden Food Strategy

There was a series of events involving good food, growing and cooking taking place in Camden today in order to launch their "Good Food Strategy"

Anna and Rosie from Sustain played a key role in developing this strategy and organising the celebrations.

A "seed swap" at Somerstown Community centre, apple day celebrations at Calthorpe and a grow bag project were just a few of the activities taking place.

I spent the day at Kentish Town City Farm where Chris from the Real Bread Campaign ran some fantastic breadmaking sessions for kids. There was also a brilliant fruit and veg activity table and some amazing artwork going on.

I am now expecting great things from this strategy if today's launch is anything to go by. I was really struck by the selflessness of all of the volunteers involved who worked really hard to ensure the children had a great time.Their passion and commitment were infectious and did more to change attitudes to food than any amount of "social marketing" this government is so fond of.

Both me and my son who came along to lend a hand are now big fans of the Kentish Town Cityfarm and are planning to go along next saturday to get more involved.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Have you been given the "Little Book of Goodness"?

All parents of reception aged children in England should have been given a copy of the The Little Book of Goodness" by their childs school.If you have been given a copy and would be happy to spend a couple of mins giving feedback about it please leave me a message below or send me an email

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Today's school dinner

It has been ages since I have been able to take pictures of the food but now I am off crutches it is much easier. The roast chicken was very popular with the children. On seeing the brussel sprouts a couple of kids started to talk about christmas dinner! It tasted good though the turnip was a little undercooked for my tastes. The ginger sponge and custard was delicious.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Product Placement in the UK

Lots of charities and campaign groups have been horrified by the Ben Bradshaws recent announcement that he would like to reverse the current ban on product placement on British TV. This decision could see junk food being advertised in many popular family TV shows. A recent survey carried out by Redshift shows 91% of the public think children shouldn't be influenced by product placement. The government say that they will protect childrens programming but since children spend 71% of their viewing time outside of children's programming this will not be much of a safeguard.

The Childrens Food Campaign is planning to lead a lively campaign to persuade Mr Bradshaw this would be a big mistake. There will be a consultation announced soon. We need to get as many people as possible to take part in this so am racking my brain for some creative and imaginative ways as possible! I may be be looking for some help to create some giant junk food costumes some time soon!

Am currently working on a paper about this. Will put it up on the blog soon as I am done. It does seem ridiculous that there are armies of teachers/parents who are doing stirling work teaching chidren about real food only to have their efforts undermined by product placement.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How Wren's Nest primary school sorted out their school meals

I have just come across this story in the TES about a primary school who have dramatically improved their school meals. Click here to read the story

Thursday, October 1, 2009

National School Meals Week...coming soon!

9th to the 13 November is National School Meals Week. The Local Authority of Caterers Association is being supported by the School Food Trust to raise awareness of school meals. Local authorities or individual schools can sign up by registering here.

If we can increase the number of children eating school meals there will be a huge number of benefits -

Health - growing children need good quality food. Children eating school dinners generally consume more fruit and veg at lunch than children bringing packed lunches.

Education - children who have eaten a balanced lunch are better prepared for afternoon lessons than those who are either still hungry or who have indulged in a sugar fest. You can see the evidence here

The local community - where there are high numbers of children eating a school lunch then it is possible to train and employ local people to cook.

The purse -If we could make school dinners the norm then that would greatly increase the purchasing power of the caterers and economies of scale would bring down the individual cost of the meals.

Please don't think that this is an attack on parents who provide packed lunches. I know there are lots of families who provide lovely balanced lunches for their children that meet the nutrient standards. However there are some dire packed lunches consumed by kids on a daily basis that contain no fruit or veg and alarmingly high levels of fat, salt and sugar. Yes we can lecture those parents endlessly and repeat the change 4life mantras endlessly but if we can provide low cost, tasty healthy alternative that will be more effective in changing eating habits than clever slogans.

Ask your school to sign up for Natonal School Meals Week now. heads and governors have a lot on their plate at this time of year so it is possible NSMW has'nt made it across their desks yet. Requests from parents to take part are likely to be favourably recieved. There is no cost to the school and there are plenty of educational materials on the site that they will be able to use. I am planning to visit local primary schools in Merton to give an assembly on the history of school meals in the UK and what school dinners are like in other countries around the world to do my bit!

Events like this are our defense against the dark old pre jamie days when Merton school children suffered the most appalling sub standard slop.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Children of working mums eat more crisps ?

There is a report out today by the Institute of Child Health which looked at 12,500 five year olds. They found that those children with working mothers are less active and are more likely to eat unhealthy food.Children of working mums were more likely to drink sweetened drinks and snack between meals, watch more TV and spend less time walking and playing out.

The question is what can we do about it? As I see it we have 2 choices:

a) Use it to have a go at Mums and increase their stress levels further. Most working mums already suffer high guilt levels

b) Put in place a raft of measures to support working parents - eg breakfast clubs at schools and nurseries. Free, good quality school lunches available at every school. Increase in work based creches.Restrictions on the advertising and promotions of high fat snacks like crisps and high sugar drinks. Limits on fast food restaurants that dominate our high streets and support for family friendly restaurants that sell balanced meals at reasonable prices.

If you look back at the second world war when the government needed women to enter the workforce in large numbers there were lots of initiatives to support working women including massive canteens that provided family meals.

Poverty is a blight on the lives of so many children in this country. Women are under huge pressure to combine motherhood and work. No one is expecting the state to pick up the tab for the cost of children but surely it could help by supporting school meals and fresh fruit and veg schemes? I find the change4life attempts to persuade us to change our behaviour insulting and banal

It is irksome that this study concentrates on the children of working mums. Wonder how the children of working dads fare?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Meeting with the authority

Spent all morning in a "School Meals Development group" meeting. There were representatives from head teachers, merton parents for better food in school and staff from the the council. We were joined part way through the meeting by staff from ISS Caterhouse.
I think it is fair to say primary school meals in Merton didn't get off to the most brilliant start. Changes with the suppliers led to delivery problems which resulted in menu deviations. However we were able to thrash this out with the contractors and this should not happen again. We were also pleased to learn that the menu had been rejigged so pasta will no longer appear 4 times in one week!
All primary schools will be given a week of free school meals for all their reception children. This is being paid for out of the school lunch grant money that the government provides to help councils increase the number of children eating school meals.
There was also a brief discussion about looking at different ways to collect school dinner money. We were very nervous that a high tech solution could end up beingg more costly and potentially create more work. However the council are planning to research this properly before they make any changes. As Merton parents we want to make sure we get lots of views from parents before there are any changes. So watch this space!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dana Woldow

Dana Woldow is a campaigning parent in San Francisco who has done a remarkable job in standing up for freshly cooked food in schools. She has worked with a group of students to produce a great video

If you are interested in American school food can I suggest you read Dr Susan Rubins excellent blog. This is where I found out about Dana.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Savage cuts?

Discussions about cutting public spending strike me as very worrying. We need to keep our nerve here. It is foolish and short sighted to try and claw back money at the expense of our children. The children are not responsible for the appalling crisis that bankers created. Why are we expecting the poorest and most vulnerable to suffer the cuts?

Not only is it immoral but it is ridiculously short sighted. Let's just think back to how the current crisis in school food actually began. It was a short sighted decision by a Conservative government who spotted an opportunity to deregulate school meals to save a few quid what a miscalculation that has proved to be!

The 1980 Education Act abolished minimum nutritional standards for the meals and ended the obligation for local authorities to provide meals. This meant schools could seve up burger and chips without a hint of fruit and veg with impunity. This act coupled with the introduction of Commercial Competitive Tendering meant that authorities had to choose the cheapest of the cheap burgers on offer. This was followed by the 1986 Social Security Act which meant thousands of children lost their entitlement to free school meals.

How much have these cuts actually cost? Generations of children who ate a nutritionally poor diet have health consequences. Armies of cooks made redundant and unable to pass on their skills to the next generation.

The money the state spends on school food is a drop in the ocean compared to other areas of state spending, (£20 billion to replace Trident springs to mind) and if it means children increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables then the savings to health will be worth it.

There is an excellent article on the history of school dinners on Derek Gillard's website.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Notes from a hospital bed

Have just discovered this blog, Notes from a hospital bed, about hospital food. Some poor journalist has been struck down with a dire disease which means he is forced to endure a lengthy hospital stay. He is posting photographs of the meals. It is really worth a look.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guide to school dinners for reception parents

I have now got a link that takes you straight to "The Little Book of Goodness". Click here

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Little Book of Goodness

If you are a parent of a reception aged child you should have got a copy of the "Little Book of Goodness" courtesy of The School Food Trust. They were sent out to all primary schools yesterday. As well as lots of pictures of typical food and information about the nutritional standards there is a competition to win a years free school lunches. Simply text the word GOODNESS to 81400. Click here for terms and conditions. There will be 50 lucky winners!

Good nutrition starts at school

I came across Kerry Trueman's blog last night. Glad we are all singing from the same hymnsheet!

The video is definitely worth watching. Our secretary Paula, found the trays painful to watch. So glad we are eating from plates in Merton.

However please don't think we have everything fixed here in Merton. Hearing some disturbing tales about how our caterers are having problems. Have a committee meeting tonight so will report back later.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kid's cookery cards

Whilst I was on holiday Fi Bird from Stirrin Stuff published her brilliant kids cookery cards. Fi is an amazing woman - she is a mother of 6, masterchef finalist and a tireless campaigner. She is passionate about teaching kids how to cook and cares deeply about the sustainability and ethics of food production. I would recommend that you have a look at her website. She is also a prolific twitterer so you also follow her tweets!

The cookery cards are laminated, clearly written and suitable for kids from 8 upwards. You can read a review of the cards here Since I am on crutches and relieved of kitchen duties I plan to throw the cards in the direction of the kids and see what they come up with! Watch this space...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fresh food v frozen food

There is a report in todays Telegraph that frozen food can be more nutritious than fresh food. Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University have decided that "frozen food could be more appropriate for school dinners because it creates less waste, is cheaper and more readily available"

The objection I have to have frozen food is that the majority of it is heavily processed. I have no worries about having the meals supplemented with portions of frozen veg but I do not want a return to industrially produced frozen pies, reformulated meat products, high fat pastry products etc - however cheap and easy it is for the caterers. Yes, by all means let the cooks cook double quantities to freeze and make the most of surplus tomatoes and berries - but please spare us the frozen ready meals.

Surely cooking food from scratch, using where possible seasonal and local ingredients is the best model for all food production?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

MP lunchs

Some interesting thoughts about MP lunches in todays Guardian What really galls me is that MPs who earn over £66,000 (plus expenses) are able to take advantage of these subsidised lunches whilst at the same time deny the same generous subsidies to hard working low income families.

We still have families who are under the official poverty line yet cannot claim free school meals. Unbelievable.

Free school meal pilot dropped

Children in Essex schools Lansdowne Primary and Herringham Primary were expecting free school meals as they had been told they were to be taking part in a special trial. However the first day back the parents were told that the PCT and authority had changed its priorities and the scheme had been dropped. Not surprisingly many parents were angry about the lack of notice and the shortsightedness of this decision. Read an account here

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm back!

Sorry for the long silence - especially when there has been so much going on in the world of UK school dinners! I have broken a couple of bones in my foot during a brilliant Sports day that Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming held. Although it is a relatively minor injury the swelling and bruising mean it is quite painful and I find sitting at the computer uncomfortable. However I am itching to comment on a few issues

1) Trial of universal free school meals.
Well it is early days but initial reports look good. You can read an account of the impact they are having in a school in Durham by clicking here If we are serious about wanting to improve the diet of the nations children then this is the simplest and most cost effective way to do it. Instead of spending money on shiny glossy ad campaigns like change4life persuading children to eat more fruit and veg surely it is better to invest in decent lunches for our children? It is better to lead by example rather than lecture! As well as the health benefits it also gives a boost to local economies - training and employing staff to cook and serve the food creates jobs. If we were really intelligent we could also create a market for small growers and local farmers to supply their local schools with fresh produce.

2) Making it easier for low income families to claim free school meals.
A recent study commissioned by the School Food Trust discovered that up to 1 in 5 low income families didn't realise they were entitled to free school meals. You can have a look at the report here. I think it is absolutely scandalous that the arrangements to claim are so complex. Entilement to free school meals should be automatically triggered when you claim for benefits taking the onus off parents to deal with the paperwork.

3) And finally....

being an avid fan of twitter, (my user name is jackieschneider if anyone wants to be pals!)I absolutely love Somerset County Services who now "tweet" their menu. They also have a great website

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Exercise v diet

Has anyone else read the report in todays Telegraph that suggests exercise doesn't really help in the drive to lose weight? It goes on to discuss ideas of re programming body fat and the existence of brown fat. You can read the article by clicking here

For an article concerned about obesity it doesn't spend much time looking at diet and the role of processed foods.