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.