Thursday, July 30, 2009

Drinking fountains in the city

I had a great meeting with Henry Smith who works for the City of London. There has been some thoughtful well researched work going on in the city to cut down our carbon footprint. Adding water fountains to a area of the city which has thousands of visitors and tourists makes perfect sense.

Henry was able to show me some terrific designs which look sleek and elegant whilst being almost impossible to vandalise. The water supply comes downward so no one could contaminate the water supply. I will have a look for some pictures that i can post but in the meanwhile you can read about the city project here

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Drinking water in parks

No school dinner pictures for a while as it is school holidays. Will need to wait til September when the schools are back.

In the meanwhile have been working very hard with Christine and The Children's Food Campaign to highlight lack of drinking water provision in parks.

The Guardian have just printed an article for us on their Comment is free website please post a comment if you get a second.

Am now off to central London to talk to a very nice man about a project to install 50 drinking fountains in the City of London

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

School dinners better for the planet?

There is a short report here about Chorley winning an environmental award for their school meal service.

It looks like the procurement manager has been able to cut delivery miles and increase the amount of local food they serve. This needs further investigation. May be an interesting case study for my colleagues at Sustain.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cost of dinners

Pleased to see that Rotheram have frozen the cost of their school meals. you can read a full report here

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Griffin School, Hull

As part of the think tank on children's health and education I got to visit Griffin Primary School and meet the school council. They were able to tell me about a very enterprising dinner lady at their school who had designed a notice board displaying the menu as a series of photographs. Hull Council are so impressed with this they have awarded her a prize.

I loved meeting the school council who gave me a great tour of the school. Well done to the Head teacher and the rest of the staff for creating such a lovely school.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Come on Wigan - what's your secret?

I was intrigued to read in Wigan Today that Wigan has bucked the national trend with school meals in the secondary schools with half of all secondary students choosing to eat a school meal.

Can anyone enlighten me as to how they have achieved this? I am willing to bet the food is tasty and that the schools have given more thought to the lunchtime arrqangements.

Will do some research!

Good luck to Reading

Reading Borough Council are holding a conference today for their School Meals Strategic Board. It is one of the few events I have ever been to that includes parents, students, Heads, Cooks, politicians and local authority staff. The event is organised by the Head of School Meals, Colin McIntosh. Colin has introduced lots of new innovative ways to promote school meals and has begun to develop really good links with the local community.

The agenda is packed with interesting and lively speakers from Jeanette Orrey to some local year 6 students. I am really sad I can't be there but some malignant germs passed on from my youngest son mean I have to give it a miss.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Please join in the discussion!

I have written a piece for The Guardian blog - Comment is Free. Please spare a minute to post your comments. Looks like I have upset a few people!

School Food uptake

Figures released yesterday show a small rise in school dinner uptake. There is a bit of argy bargy over the figures - anyone involved in school administration will know that it has been really complicated how you report school meal figures - the caterers seem to have one method and the local authorities another. Last year the School Food Trust attempted to standardise the process by changing the way the figures are reported so that has led to different sets of data being compared.

For me that is a secondary issue. The key point is that the school meal service has not collapsed with the removal of junk food and the arrival of standards but uptake is not rising fast enough to meet the government targets.

Children aren't stupid - if the food is poor quality, poor value for money and served in substandard surroundings then they will not eat it.

Some schools understand this and work hard to ensure there school provides decent food in pleasant surroundings. There are examples of schools being very creative to overcome problems like small dining rooms - eg amending timetables, creating outdoor seating areas.

And yes I know how difficult it is for Heads with huge workloads and pressure of targets. But this matters - the lunchtime is part of the school day and in the same way heads wouldn't accept substandard lessons they shouldn't accept substandard meal provision.

If children are hungry they will not be able to learn. School meal uptake will only rise when schools get their act together and address the problems in their dining rooms.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Global think tank on school meals

I am off to Hull take part part in a global think tank organised by Prof Derek Colquhoun. Derek is an amazing man who led the Hull experiment to provide a healthy school meal free to every primary school child. Sadly this issue became a political football and when the political make up of the council changed the Lib Dems pulled the rug from under it.

The think tank will be focusing on the relationship between children’s health and learning. It will be an inter-disciplinary think tank involving people from a variety of disciplines (such as Physiology, Psychology, Education, Planning, Social Policy, Architecture etc) and backgrounds (such as academic, policy and practice). Not quite sure where I fit in! However am sure it will be a great opportunity to raise the role of parents and the sustainability of school meals. Am also keen to sound out people on valu of another campaign for free school meals.

I am really looking forward to visiting some schools and will be sure to take lots of photos.

Tomorrow will probably be big school dinner news day. The years uptake figures will be published so expect lots of miserable media stories saying how kids hate eating furit and vegetables and we need to give them back chips every day!

Chris from Merton Parents will be taking to the airwaves for a deabte on a BBC Birmingham radio station.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Unbelievable comment from Richmond Council!

Many of you will know Stephanie Woods who is doing a great job campaigning for freshly cooked school meals in the London Borough of Richmond. Just have a look at the email she recieved yesterday from a council employee:

'It seems that you have asked parents to bombard Cllr Eady and I with emails. Please could you pass on the attached message to them all and ask them to refrain from sending us further emails? Many thanks.'

Matthew Paul
Deputy Head of Commissioning, Delivery & Service Improvement
Children's Services & Culture / LB Richmond upon Thames / Regal House / London Road / Twickenham / TW1 3QB

Tel: 020 8891 7588 / Mobile: 07946 890631 / Fax: 020 8891 7714 / Email: / Web:

He then goes on to say that while he agrees with School Food Matters aims the council are unable to provide kitchens in the schools. You can read his comment in full on the School Food Matters website

I am sure that the council would be delighted if troublesome parents like us "refrained" from contacting them but who will speak up for the children? I would like to see the local council "refrain" from ignoring poor quality food in school and ignoring parents.

Local democracy is alive and well in Richmond!

Too hot to eat?

Spare a thought for the nations school dinner staff who have been slaving away in tropical temperatures this week.