Thursday, May 28, 2009

Free training on contract writing

Getting the contract right is absolutely key to getting the best school food from your caterers. However it can be a daunting job and is often the domain of 'experts' who may have no interest in food and nutrition issues.

Help is at hand from "Good Food Training". They are running a free course on Thursday 18th June 9.30 - 4.00pm in central London. If you are a school governor/teacher/secretary or parent who wants to make improvements to your catering contract then this course is for you.

There will be public sector caterers and procurement officers on hand to share how they make their contracts work for them and to give practical help and advice on legislation and specifications.

Please pass this on to your school or local authority to ensure they take advantage of this great opportunity.

Go to the Sustain website for more details

Listen to The Food Programme!

This weeks food programme on Radio 4 is all about the LACA summit on nutrient standards in schools. They have recorded an interview with Judy Haragadon the Chief Exec of School Food Trust and with dinner lady extrordinaire Jeanette Orrey.

They interviewed me at the actual event but they may well not use my comments - I was in seriously ranting mode!

The programme is on this sunday at 12.20 and repeated on monday at 16.00

Update:Here is the link to the food programme

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Food for Life Partnership

I met up with Simon and Neko on friday to look at the Food for Life partnership website. They have some very exciting plans to add new features to make it more interactive and useful for their schools.

The website is really worth a look whether you are a teacher looking for a school food policy or if you are a parent desperate to encourage your childs school to improve the quality of food education they provide.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Congratulations to Wittersham School!

I was starting to feel despondent about school dinners having read the story about an oxford school, Ashton and Cote, that is closing its school kitchen because of cost when I came across this good news story!

Wittersham School in Kent faced with rising food costs were seriously worried about keeping their school dinner service going. They were even considering buying in pre prepared food in an attempt to save costs.However instead of taking the easy option they decided to raise their game and open up their school meals to the wider community. It has been a fantastic success with many senior citizens and with the children. You can see pictures of the canteen if you click here

Thank you Wittersham School for showing that it can be done. Now I just need to get on to that school in Oxford and inspire them with this example!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The case for free school meals for all primary school children

The campaign for free school meals for all primary school children got off to a great start yesterday. MP's Sharon Hodgeson,(above)and Roberta Blackman-Wood invited the Children's Food Campaign, teaching unions and anti poverty campaigners to a meeting at Westminster to plan a campaign.

We want to build the case on the following points:

1) Improving children's health
2)Overcoming health inequalities amongst poorer families
3)Removing the poverty trap that prevents parents moving into employment
4)Supporting the rural economy and promoting sustainable food.

It will be crucial that we build a wide coalition of supporters. In particular we need to find a way to connect with local food producers and those working in the rural economy.

I haven't got time to go into any detail today - am about to head off to a School Food Trust event on monitoring school food standards, but will be sure to return to this subject soon!

This is an idea whose time has come. The crisis in children's health, the appalling economic hardships facing families and the difficulties facing our farmers could all be helped massively with this one initative.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Free school meals for all?

Today at Prime Ministers Question time Sharon Hodgeson MP asked the Prime Minister to support our campaign for free school meals for all using locally produced food. Along with improving children's diet it would also address poverty issues facing many families and support our farmers and the rural economy.We are off this afternoon to meet Sharon and fellow MP Roberta Blackman-Wood to plan our campaign.

Will let you know how we get on!

Correction: It was actually Roberta who asked the question at PMQ as one of the pilots for free school meals is taking place in her constituency.

Netmums survey on school dinners

Netmums has conducted a school meals survey. They got over 2000 replies. The results are really interesting - turns out the major concerns most parents have are with the organisation of the lunch break. The major findings were that parents wanted

* a more relaxed eating environment allowing more time for their children to finish their food.
* teachers and parents to eat with the children.
* better communication between schools and parents so that parents are assured their children are eating and drinking enough
* less contradictory messages such ice-cream vans, discounted doughnut offers and sweets from teachers

The single biggest grumble from 46% of respondents was that children did not have enough time to eat their food.

62% were in favour of free school meals for all.

It is well worth taking a look at the full results

It is interesting that many of the points parents raise are routinely ignored by both headteachers and the media when covering school dinner stories.

Netmums are doing a great job of highlighting parental concerns and I am really looking forward to working with them again to ensure heads and governors understand our concerns.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

School Food Trust are looking for new board members

You can find out more by clicking here

Monday, May 11, 2009

Making the case for universal free school meals

Here is a thought- what if we looked at free school meals for all as a way to protect the rural economy? Surely we could make a great case for free school dinners as a way of supporting British farmers, providing local employment and reducing our carbon footprint.

We need some good quality research on this. Watch this space!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Real Bread Campaign

Check out Chris from the Real Bread Campaign at the Real Food festival. The young helpers did a great job of collecting sigs on the petition to demand that the big bread makers label their bread transparently listing the chemicals they use as "processing agents"

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Real Food Festival

I had a great day at the Real Food Festival One of the planned speakers for the public food debate was taken ill so I was asked to speak at the last moment. It was an interesting debate, chaired by Tim Lang with speakers, Rosie Boycott, Kath Dalemy and chef Chris Horridge.

The debate posed the question - Why is £2 billion of our money being spent on bad food?
Every year, government spends £2 billion of tax-payers’ money to feed people in public institutions such as hospitals, care homes, universities, schools and nurseries. Yet most of the food is provided with woefully little attention to health, how the food was grown, or how much money was spent with hard-working smaller businesses to promote local economies. At the same time, the NHS that taxpayers also pay for, has to pick up the bill for the health problems caused by poor food – with spiralling costs for heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity, which all have a link to food quality. Meanwhile, food producers in the UK and abroad suffer from the perpetual focus on squeezing prices rather than meeting food quality and ethical trading standards.
What would our food system look like if instead we injected £2 billion of public money into food that is better for health, better for the economy and better for the planet?
Does government have a duty to lead by example and insist on good quality, healthy, environmentally friendly and ethical food, or are these simply pipe-dreams that we choose not to afford?
Can we rely on there being enough pioneering caterers to champion health and sustainability in schools and hospitals, or do we need concerted action, or even a law?

I came away from the debate even more convinced that we need to nail politicians over this and really make this an election issue.

I also got the chance to 'rant' at an open mike session on the rude health stand.

I am going back tomorrow to help out on the Real Bread Campaign stall

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Any takers for meatless mondays?

The Food for Life partnership held a low carbon nutrition summit today exploring the role schools might play. Tara Garnett from the Food Climate Research Network gave an excellent presentation.

Looks like doing nothing is not an option. Eating less meat and dairy won't do anyone any harm, and it will help the planet. The picture above is yesterdays lunch at school - cauliflower cheese. It wasn't the most popular choice with the kids with many of them preferring the tuna wrap and salad instead.

Update : Just found this survey of kids views about this idea on newsround site

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Cheeseburgers and chocolate biscuits healthier than baby food"

My colleague at the "Children's Food Campaign", Christine Haigh, has compiled a brilliant report which looks at the nutritional content of many of the foods marketed at babies and young children. It exposes just how high in saturated fat, salt and sugar many of these foods are.

I was really shocked by Cow and Gates failure to provide nutitional information for their food for babies and young people. When our researcher asked for one she was told that "unfortunately we do not have a complete list of ingredients for all our food to send"

It is not good enough and makes a mockery of the governments tactic to allow the food companies to regulate them selves.

The good news is that Cow and Gate have immediately withdrawn their Baby Bear Balance biscuits. Their has been a lot of media coverage - you may have seen Richard Watts on BBC Breakfast or heard Christine on the radio.

Have a look at Children's Food Campaign website for fuller details