Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Project for primary schools in Sheffield.

The School Food Trust are planning to carry out some research into children's perception of sweetness by carrying out a six week experiment in some Sheffield schools. In a nutshell project is:

Recruit 60 children and their families from 2-4 Sheffield Primary schools.
Children will taste solutions of water with small (increasing) amounts of added sugar or sweetener to determine at what concentration they can taste ‘sweetness’.
Following the taste test, half of the children reduce the amount of sweet foods that they eat. The other half will eat/drink as normal.
Pupils will repeat the taste test to see if their perception of sweetness has changed.

It will be a proper piece of research which will be carried out by nutritionist and overseen by a university.

This could be a fantastic project for a primary school as it will give the children a chance to be involved in real life science! The researchers will be able to give the children a real insight into running experiments and there will be lots of opportunities for data handling. In addition because half of the children will be asked to reduce their sugar intake this could make a brilliant class blog with children recording their reactions. There would be a real audience for this!

As the sugar reduction is in the name of science and the children will be free to return to their usual diet after the project has finished chances are most parents won't percieve it as too nannying or authoritarian.

This could be a brilliant project. Unfortunately it is only open to Sheffield primay schools otherwise I would have done it at my school.

If you know anyone in a Sheffield primary school please pass this link on to them
If you are from an interested primary school then email me at Jackieatmertonparentsdotcodotuk (my attempts to thwart the spambots!)and I will hook you up with the School Food Trust

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Letter to Secretary of State for Education from 50 headteachers

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
House of Commons
10 November 2010

Dear Secretary of State,
We the undersigned ask you to protect the vital school lunch service from the cuts to Local Authority budgets. Good school meals are essential to protect pupil’s health and improve behaviour, motivation and ability to learn and achieve. Better access to good food at school means better health and improved life chances, especially for poorer pupils.
There is good evidence to support this, and we have personally witnessed the transformative effects of improved school meals. Our schools are among the 3,000 schools involved in the Food for Life Partnership, where quality food is matched by food education, cooking lessons, on-site food growing and improvements to the dining area. In less than two years, meal take-up amongst Food for Life Partnership Bronze, Silver and Gold schools has risen by almost three times the national average. This approach enables a ‘virtuous circle’ of improved food quality and further increased lunch take-up, spreading fixed costs further and ensuring a quality catering service remains economically viable.
A quarter of children are now overweight or obese, meaning they are more likely to suffer from serious health problems later in life costing the NHS an estimated £10 billion a year. Many children are also malnourished, meaning they lack the vitamins and minerals essential to maximise health and ability to learn. As Under-Secretary of State Tim Loughton acknowledged in the Commons recently, school meals “often represent the only nutritious meal in some children’s day”. Improving school food and food culture can help to cut the cost of ill health and teach children to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. The implementation of food and nutritional standards in primary and secondary schools has seen great improvement in the quality of food served in schools, but these improvements are now at risk from the pressures on budgets.
We believe that by involving the whole school community in improving food culture, and providing healthy and sustainable school meals on a limited budget, every child is given the opportunity to get the start in life they deserve. We urge you to protect the school lunch service from changes to local authority and school budgets.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Broadway, All Saints School, Wyke Regis
Yvonne McLean, Ashdene Primary, Wilmslow
Martin Craig, Balby Carr Sport and Science Learning Community, South Yorkshire
Jean Primmer, Barrow Hill Primary, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Cristina Brilhante, Bradfields School, Chatham, Kent
Margaret Portus, Bradley Barton Primary School and Nursery Unit, Newton Abbott, Devon
Mark Eager, Brixham College, Torbay, Devon
Diane Herbert, Burnwood Community School, Stoke on Trent
Paul Frost, Cambois First School Blyth, Northumberland
Ms Dwyer, Clifford Holroyde EBD College, Liverpool
Maureen Batty, Coppice Farm Primary School, Nottinghamshire
Alex Young, Cottingham High School, East Riding, West Yorkshire
Gerry Heynes, Courthouse School, Maidenhead, Kent
Brenda Jones, Cranmore Infant School, Solihull, West Midlands
Maurice Rushbrook, Cranwell Primary School, Lincolnshire
Marilyn Phipps, Damson Wood Infant School, Solihull
Karen Purser, Durrington High School, Worthing, West Sussex
Anthony Tierney, Fairfield Endowed Junior School, Buxton, Derbyshire
Peter Harris, Farsley Farfield Primary School, West Yorkshire
Lee Ryman, Fir Tree Junior School, Wallington, Oxford
Peggy A Farrington, Hanham High School, Bristol
Catherine Sykes, Hemsworth Arts and Community College, Pontefract, West Yorkshire
Gill Bassett, Lacey Gardens Junior School, Louth, Lincolnshire
Caroline Seaman, Ludlow CE School, Ludlow, Shropshire
Ms A Thomson, Marlborough School Science College, Hertfordshire
Samantha Williams, Middleton Primary School, Leeds
Tamsin Dyer, Mousehole Primary School, Mousehole, Cornwall
Mrs. Elizabeth Ditton, Nacton CEVC Primary School, Nacton, Suffolk
Mrs Diane Appleby, Seething & Mundham Primary School, Seething, Norfolk
Mrs Sarah Howat, Seething & Mundham Primary School, Seething, Norfolk
Morag Kingsbury, St Andrew's CofE Primary School, Chardstock,Devon
Jan Abrams, St Leonard's Heath and Reach VA Lower School, Leyton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
Robert Entwistle, St Peter's CE Middle School, Old Windsor, Berkshire
Elizabeth Stubbs, St Stephen's CE Junior School, Twickenham, London
Anne-Marie McElhinney, St Thomas More Catholic Primary School, Eastfield, Peterborough
Mike Pyle, St Wilfred's Catholic High School and Sixth Form College, West Yorkshire
Steven P Hatcher, St. Aidan's Church of England High School, Harrogate, Yorkshire
Karen Walker, St. Andrew's VA Primary School, Salisbury,
Martin Harding, St. Michael's C of E Primary School, Kingsteington, Devon
David L Yeld, The Downs Primary School and Nursery, Essex
Anne Hendon-John, The Polygon School, Southampton
Ann Thornton, Wallsend Jubilee Primary School, Tyne and Wear
Douglas Bone, Wandle Valley School, Carshalton Surrey
Mandy Simmons, Wandle Valley School, Carshalton Surrey
Ian Johnston, William Morris School, Walthamstow, London
Robin Reynolds, Woodgate Primary School, Bartley Green, Birmingham
Margaret Beel, Lyndhurst Primary, Portsmouth
Ian Nurser, St Peters (controlled) Primary, Wem, Shropshire
Jo Claridge, Oldfield Park Infants School, Somerset

Well done Food for Life Partnership for bringing these schools together

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Looks like Jamie is back on the case!

Below is a press release from The Press Association

Oliver to fight school dinner cuts

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver met with the Government on Wednesday to challenge planned cuts to school dinners, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The TV cook arranged to meet Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to discuss the Government's decision to end the School Lunch Grant, introduced in 2008 after Mr Oliver's campaign for better school meals.

The £240 million ring-fenced provision was aimed at raising the quality of low-cost, healthy school meals for pupils from middle-income families.

But from March 2011 it will be absorbed into the main schools budget, leaving head teachers to decide how the money should be spent.

Without a ring-fenced fund, they will have to balance demands for new books, stationery and sports equipment against healthy lunches.

The Department of Health confirmed that Mr Oliver met with Mr Lansley earlier but would not provide details of the private meeting.

Their discussion followed talks at the Department of Health on Monday attended by Mr Oliver and health professionals including GPs and child obesity experts.

The experts warned Mr Lansley that revoking the School Lunch Grant would be detrimental to pupils' health, behaviour and academic performance.

The fund is planned to come to an end just months after it was announced that the School Food Trust, also set up after Mr Oliver's campaign against unhealthy school meals, will lose its Government funding. Its status is being changed so that it will no longer be funded by the Department for Education, instead continuing as an independent charity from April 2011.

Sandra Russell, chair of the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA), which represents 100,000 school canteen staff, said she was "very grateful" for Mr Oliver's continued campaigning for the grant.

Copyright © 2010 The Press Association. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Todays school dinner

A rather tasty cottage pie which was certainly nice and warming on a chilly November day. The number of children eating school dinners still increasing but some children can only have them once or twice a week.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hierarchy of needs

"So, please, please have a rethink, Mr Gove. Because it doesn't really matter how many A*s you've managed if you've also got scurvy and rickets."

Well said Carrie Quinlan! This is a quote from excellent comment is free post on the Guardian website.

CAUTION reading some of the comments underneath may make you despair

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Brilliant letter in today's guardian

The Guardian, Thursday 4 November 2010

Education secretary Michael Gove should put two and two together before he takes money away from school dinners to improve attainment (Axed free meals pay for Gove's school scheme, 3 November). Research into the benefits of good school food shows a nutritious lunch leads to improvements in pupil behaviour, motivation and ability to learn and achieve, especially for poorer children. If Mr Gove's proposed pupil premium wants to help raise attainment and "close the gap between rich and poor", then that money should be spent on providing good food for every child.

We work with nearly 3,000 schools across the country, putting great food on the school dinner menu and food education in the timetable. Food for Life Partnership schools in disadvantaged areas report an increase in attendance as well as improved behaviour, and meal take-up among participating schools has risen by almost three times the national average.

Since Chestnuts primary school in Haringey, north London, joined the partnership in 2007 there have been far fewer incidents in the playground at lunchtimes, and no exclusions for almost 12 months. The school has experienced improved academic attainment for three consecutive years.

Paul Frost, the headteacher at Cambois first school in Northumberland, has said: "We work in an area where educating children on the importance of food choices and the importance of ensuring the children receive a balanced meal each day cannot be underestimated. It's crucial that we continue to be able to maintain the current provision for the benefit of the children and families we serve."

Libby Grundy

Director, Food for Life Partnership

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sorry children in poverty...

...but you wont be eligible for todays free school dinner because Mr Gove wants to pay a former City trader for a scheme to help academy schools to improve standards - whatever that means. Sounds suspiciously like a quango to me that wants to promote the market within schools.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Poor kids lose out to a City fund manager

It has long been a source of shame for this country that you can be officially under the poverty line and yet not eligible for free school meals. It took the last government long enough to address this. Sadly this current coalition government think the money would be better spent on an endowment fund for getting academies to support other schools. So poor children who can't afford the school meals that their better off friends enjoy will have to go hungry so the government can fund an ideological talking shop? The money that would have been spent on nutritional meals will pay the salary of a former city fund manager?

I have no confidence that this scheme will make the slightest improvement to school. If Mr Gove is serious about driving up school standards he would do well to consider that hungry children find it difficult to learn. But I suppose that this is not a problem anyone in the government has ever faced on a first hand basis. Ofsted have already reported on the fact that many parents simply cannot afford to pay for school meals for all of their children

Please tell me this is a nightmare and I can wake up soon.

Read what the Guardian has to say here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

There are school dinners ....and there are school dinners

Click here to look at some amazing pictures of school food. Unbelievable!

Now have a look at the other end of the spectrum. Click here to see some incredibly unappetising unhealthy junk available every day to American children and young people. YUCK

This weekend I am off to an event organised by Slow Food called Terra Madre. I will be meeting up with school dinner campaigners from all over the world. I am especially excited to be meeting Dr Susan Rubins who has been tireless in quest to rescue American school children from poor nutrition.She set up Better School Food Will be taking my laptop, my video and a teenager to record our conversations so watch this space!

Friday, October 15, 2010

More detail from the Department of Education re future of School Food Trust

Below is a quote taken from The Department for Education press release about yesterdays announcement.

“The Government is committed to ensuring that pupils can eat healthy, nutritious school food. The School Food Trust has developed significant expertise around the school food agenda over the past five years and continues to have an important role to play in supporting schools and local authorities to meet the nutritional standards. As a Community Interest Company, the Trust will continue to be able to play that role and to provide advice to the Government, which is informed by the practical work it does out in the field. It will also have the freedom to sell its services - advice, guidance, research - to local authorities, schools, caterers and others on a commercial basis.

Community Interest Companies (CICS) are limited companies, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a "community interest test" and "asset lock", which ensures that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes. Registration of a company as a CIC has to be approved by the Regulator who also has a continuing monitoring and enforcement role.

We expect that the Trust will continue to take forward a number of activities for the Department. The level of future DfE support for the Trust is dependent on the spending review outcome and the tasks SFT are asked to undertake for DfE.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What now for The School Food Trust?

So I no longer sit on the board of a Quango. Today the government announced that the School Food Trust will lose its "non departmental body" status. The government want the Trust to be "retained" and have have said it will commission its services. It already is a charity and will move toward operating as Community Interest Company.

So what does that mean in English? My interpretation is that it has survived. Fans of feeding junk food to kids will be disappointed. There will be no ripping up of school food standards and a return to the bad old days of turkey twizzlers and the "muck off a truck" as the Soil Association famously once described school food.

My personal response is that I have every confidence the staff of the School Food Trust will do their best to make this work. I am not thrilled that the government see this as charity work and it makes me wonder about their commitment to improving childrens health. The school food revolution is NOT over!

You can see the School Food Trust response here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some recent school lunches

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Children served dreadful food in hospital

It is hardly rocket science - children who are in hospital should be offered good quality tasty, healthy food that will nourish them. Yet a study published today reports children are served some dreadful junk whilst in hospital. Heavily processed foods containing sky high levels of salt fat and sugar fill the menus. Very little of the food offered would meet the standards set for school food. Isn't it screamingly obvious to suggest we should have minimum nutritional standards for hospital food?

It seems to me the main problem with the food is because it is cheap, industrially mass produced stuff which relies on high levels of fat and salt to give it any flavour. This is not good value for money. I am not advocating a puritanical health drive - merely good quality food, nicely prepared that is appetising and appealing for children.

Joan Walley MP is calling on the government to invest in decent food for all of the public sector. Click here to support her campaign

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Free" schools - the future?

I was invited to take part in a round table discussion for the BBC politics show about Mr Gove's idea for "free" schools where parents can set up there own independent school using state money. The reason I was asked to take part was because of the campaigning I have done with Merton Parents.

It was suggested to me that since I feel strongly about school food why didn't I set up a school that could focus on teaching great food skills, - gardening, cooking and with terrific school meals.

Now as attractive as that sounds I think this plan has several fatal flaws!

We want good school meals for ALL children in state schools. It is not an optional extra. When we first set up Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools our original demand was for a school kitchen in each and every school. The parents from Wimbledon Park had actually already got a decent kitchen by fundraising themselves but crucially they still supported our campaign because they understood this was something every school needed.

We live in a democracy. We led a democratic campaign to persuade the local authority we had a good case and it worked! The council backed down from their initially hostile position and changed its policy in response. If the response in future to problems with schools is simply to set up your own school we will be letting our children down.

If we had just opted out in the way Toby Young - a parent who wants to set up his own school, argues we should then there would be 39 schools in Merton with out kitchens, new improved menus and decent caterers. My advice to Toby or anyone else wanting to set up a free school was to get stuck in and campaign to get the improvements you want to see in state education.

Of course I am keen to persuade my own children's schools to take a lead on running school gardens and teaching cookery but that is not enough. we need to persuade heads, governors, local authority, parents & education ministers that all schools would benefit from good quality food education.

If I did set up a fantasy free school - would be great for the kids who got in but the resources we would take away from the remaining schools would be immoral.

As both Disney, high school musical and the Tory party say, " we're all in this together!" Let's help our schools to develop and not set up new schools in competition. Turning schools into a free market experiment could be disastrous and will threaten the viability of successful state comprehensives.

The program I took part in will be shown this sunday. Of course I may end up on the cutting room floor!

Friday, September 24, 2010

School Food Trust to be axed?

By now I am sure many of you have seen the leaked doc in the Telegraph suggesting that the School Food Trust is to be axed. Well actually it is not as simple as that as the trust is a charity so the government have no power to "axe" it.

In my own opinion as a parent, teacher and founder of Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools is that we need the School Food Trust because the job is not yet done. Six years ago before the trust was set up children were routinely served sub standard food,- cheap poor quality ingredients, high in fat, salt and sugar with little, if any, fresh fruit and veg. As parents in Merton we despaired because schools seemed helpless to combat it, the caterers were opposed to improvements and no one within either local or national government cared. This pushed us into action and we got hundreds of parents in Merton to complain and collect evidence. As you will know we won spectacular improvements which has lead to thousands of children and staff in merton eating good tasty, healthy school meals. However this is not the case everywhere and even where schools now want to make improvements they need help. This is where the School Food Trust comes in. They have fantastic resources for school staff, caterers, parents, students - or anyone who wants to see improvements.

If you look back at the recent history of school dinners you will see savage cuts, ripping out of kitchens and dining rooms, nutritional standards abolished, experienced cooks sacked and fresh food replaced with ready made junk. The School Food Trust have inherited a mountain of huge problems and they have made an impressive start. Given the scale of problems facing the school meal service it is hardly surprising that the Trust need longer to make radical improvements.

The staff are passionate,talented, hardworking and quite inspirational. Many of them could command much higher salaries working for industry. Axing the School Food Trust would be a big mistake and an ideological response - not an economic decision.

NB - these opinions are entirely my own. Anyone looking for a School Food Trust response please go to their website.

UPDATE Below is School Food Trust response: Responding to today’s story in the Daily Telegraph and the BBC, School Food Trust Chair Rob Rees said:

Like all Non Departmental Public Bodies we are waiting on the outcome of the Government’s review of arms length bodies to decide on whether the school food remains an NDPB. We can't comment on speculation or leaks.

Regardless of the outcome of the Arms Lenghts Bodies review the School Food Trust remains committed to this incredibly important agenda not least because of the huge economic, health and social costs of child obesity

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teachers eating school dinners with kids!

This is a giant leap forward! If school dinners are good enough for teachers to eat it generally means they are good enough for kids. It is massively reassuring to us parents and it is a kind of insurance policy against a fall in standards.

I appreciate teachers need a break from kids but thank you to all those of you teachers who choose to sit and eat with kids!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Have you signed the petition to save school meals?

There has been a tremendous improvement in school food since 2005. We have made enormous strides but we are still not there yet. That is why I am supporting the petition by the Soil Association, Children's Food Campaign and Merton parents to encourage the government to continue the good work.

Please sign it now and send the link to all your friends and family.

Sign the petition to defend school food

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Putting the food industry in charge of healthy eating advice

It is shocking to think that Andrew Lansley,the Health Secretary, believes that the food industry are the best people to trust to give families and children healthy eating advice.He has suggested that Food for Life - the healthy eating programme aimed at getting kids and parents to eat less high fat, salt sugar foods- is handed over to industry. His reasoning is that since they seem able to persuade families to spend millions on junk food they do not need they may well be able to "persuade" them to eat fruit and veg. Of course this simplistic approach fails to take into account the conflict of interest. Why on earth would these companies wish the public to eat LESS of their products? Let's look at their track record - many of the companies have fought traffic light labelling tooth and nail and many of them still make misleading claims on their packaging.

You can help the Department of Health see the error of their ways by creating your own Change 4 Life poster. Visit the Children's Food Campaign website now to do it. You can also see a gallery of posters created so far.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Calling all UK school food campaigners!

Recent government comments about healthy eating have caused huge concerns amongst those of us campaigning to improve school food. Throw away comments by Andrew Lansley (Health Secretary) about Jamie Oliver's healthy school food experiment "failing" and invitations to junk food companies to take over healthy eating campaigning are alarming. Government intervention over the last 5 years has protected school children from nutritionally poor food. Nutritional standards for school meals has meant that unscrupulous caterers are no longer allowed to make a profit by selling our kids rubbish. A lot of parents, dinner ladies and food campaigners have worked long and hard to ensure this happened. we are not going to roll over and allow these gains to be overturned. Next week I plan to meet up with various grassroot campaigners to discuss what we need to do. Please make contact if you would like to be involved in these discussions. I will report back next week.

Well, this is the last school dinner children in Merton primary schools will be eating until September. Prices are set to rise to £2.00 a meal. This includes a 16p subsidy from Merton Council. There has been a steady improvement in the quality of the meals over the school year and in my own school the completion of the school kitchen has seen a dramatic improvement. What ever happens at government level Merton Parents for Better Food in School will fight to ensure every school child in Merton is offered only good quality, tasty, freshly prepared meals in pleasant surroundings.

Next academic year the catering company that provides primary school meals will be taking over the catering at the secondary schools. We are expecting improvements and will be monitoring closely.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Excellent article in Lancet

"It is perhaps not surprising that Andrew Lansley is seeking to make a break from decisions made by the previous administration. Yet he is in danger of distracting attention from the very real public health risks posed by the relentless growth of obesity and diabetes. Even in the course of today's severe financial belt-tightening, the UK's leaders should avoid gratuitous and unhelpful public statements. Instead, they should devote their energies to framing a forward-looking health policy—one that offers clear and tangible support to effective education for families on how important a good diet is to their children's growth, health, and future."

Wise words taken from the last para of an excellent article in the Lancet. You can read the article in full here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Merton's school food figures are up!

Later on today new figures will be announced showing the proportion of children now buying a school meal. These figures will be of great interest following the ill informed comments of our Health Secretary Andrew Lansley since he declared Jamie Olivers attempt to improve school food as a failure last week.

I don't know what the national trend will be (though I suspect it will be up)However I know that the proportion of children eating school dinners in the London Borough of Merton is up

Secondary schools
2009 37.4%
2010 46.9%

Primary schools
2009 33.3%
2010 35.2%

So Mr Lansley, here is proof that children will eat tasty affordable school meals. Jamie and all the other school dinner campaigners were absolutely right to insist on healthy food. I will post a link to the national statistics as soon as they are up.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Letters page in today's Guardian

Some great letters in today's Guardian about Andrew lansley's ill informed comments about school dinners that are worth a read. Click here

Friday, July 2, 2010

Actual School food take up

I was on BBC Breakfast yesterday at 8.10 to talk about Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley's comment that the Jamie Oliver campaign to get school kids to eat as healthy food had failed. He cited as "evidence" the fact that school meal uptake had fallen.

Lansley needs to look at the bigger picture. For the last 30 years there has been a decline in school meals. In fact when a Thatcherite government abolished minimum nutritional standards numbers eating the food fell. When compulsory competitive tendering was introduced numbers declined yet further. Of course when Jamie Oliver revealed the poor quality of the food many parents were so disgusted they stopped buying school meals so numbers fell. When the new food standards were introduced so that caterers were no longer able to sell mars and coke to kids - numbers fell. But the crucial thing that Andrew Lansley managed to miss is that school food numbers for the first time in 30 years are now beginning to grow. The last 2 years have seen an increase.

I spend a lot of time with both parents and young people and the biggest reason they cite for not having school food is cost. This has been born out by the recent Ofsted report that gives feedback from one parent who describes choosing which of her children can a school meal in day as she can't afford to pay for all of them.

It is a complex challenge for all of us to get as many children as possible to have good quality tasty affordable school meals. This isn't helped by uniformed comments by high profile ministers. I have invited Mr Lansley to come to Merton to talk to children and families for himself. Watch this space ....

Incidentally, if you saw BBC Breakfast yesterday the BBC mistakenly described me as School Food Trust rather than Chair of Merton parents for Better Food in Schools. Whilst I am on the board of the School Food Trust I was not speaking on their behalf but rather expressing my personal views.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lest we forget - school meals pre Jamie and pre School food Trust

Is this really what Andrew Lansley wants to see a return to? I would hope that as health secretary he might be concerned that a diet like this could have implications for children's health. The standards established by the School Food Trust and food campaigners are the only defence we have against a return to the bad old days of nutritionally poor food.

Andrew Lansley's speech to BMA

I am bewildered, perplexed and dismayed by our health secretary's speech today to the BMA. He appears to have totally misunderstood the Jamie Oliver campaign to improve school food.

Jamie did the nation a huge service by revealing the atrocious state of school dinners. Abolishing nutritional standards, insisting on using lowest cost providers, ripping out proper kitchens in favour of re gen ovens led to truly terrible school food.

Jamie's campaign led to an increase in funding and the establishment of the School Food Trust. They in turn have done a magnificent job in establishing minimum nutritional standards for the food and have helped schools overcome many of the problems caused by under investment.

It has not been easy, but we have gradually begun to turn the corner. Primary school meals have increased and where secondary schools have been able to improve their dining rooms and keep prices low their numbers have also risen.

What Lansley doesn't understand is that the change is school food was never about "nagging" kids to improve their eating habits. It was always about providing good quality tasty nutritious food to show them that the tasty option was also the healthy option. Sadly the high cost of some school meals, the terrible queuing, the lack of time to eat them mean that school meal uptake hasn't increased as dramatically as I would like. The answer is though to overcome those obstacles - not to get a cheap headline criticising jamie Oliver.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Newham Free School Meal Trial - Enjoy Lunch On Us

Have a look at how one London borough is changing teenage eating habits at lunchtime

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ofsted report into school food

Ofsted have been carrying out an special inspection of school food in the UK.They have visited a group of schools to check schools are meeting the nutritional standards for meals and to look at school food policies. They have talked to children about the whole lunch time experience.

The good news is that most schools are well on their way to meeting the standards. However they did identify some primary schools that were struggling to provide enough fruit in the menus and issues with some secondary schools offering fried food too often. So not perfect but a dramatic improvement on the quality of food from 5 years ago.

Ofsted have picked up on the problem of costs of school meals and healthy packed lunches. From their discussions with parents it became clear that it was not lack of knowledge about healthy eating that led to unhealthy packed lunches but cost and access to fresh fruit and veg in local shops.

This report highlights the plight of low income working families who are unable to afford a school meal. This is yet more evidence than the government should act to restore eligibility for families under the poverty line.(It is not too late to email Mr Gove over this - click here.)

Not surprisingly some parts of the press have chosen to ignore the main finding of this report and concentrate on "Nosy parkers spy on kids packed lunches" angle. However there is some serious consideration of the report in the Independent and The Guardian.

This Ofsted report is yet another piece of evidence alongside School Food Trust research that supports the need for subsidising school meals. The long term savings to the NHS mean this would be a wise investment.

You can download a copy of the report here

Saturday, June 19, 2010

So will government sacrifice free school meals to pay for "free schools"

This absolutely beggars belief. According to a leaked memo that Channel 4 news have seen the government is looking at how they can take money away from free school meals to fund their "free schools". You can read the channel4 report here

These are very dangerous times.

We will be writing to Mr Gove. Will post his response.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My school lunch

Well this is embarrassing - I am unable to load today's photos of lunch. Come on blogger - don't let me down!

It has let me upload a picture of this mornings activity. I have signed up year 3 to take part in the one pot pledge. This is a great initiative to persuade everyone to start small but to start growing something they can eat. We have chosen to grow coriander - partly because it will be ready to eat in about 8 weeks. Do have a look at their website - there is some great stuff for schools.

After we had cleared up the classroom we took part in another initiative - "send my friend to school" This involved the kids learning about reasons why many children are denied the opportunity to go to school and what we in the west can do to help. The charity is asking children to make a world cup scarf to remind politicians to keep their commitments. Our school have decided to crochet a scarf and I spent a very pleasant lunchtime in Louise's Garden teaching eager children how to crochet. We have made a South African and Nigerian square to contribute to the scarf so far.

Lunch was great - more and more children are choosing to eat it despite earlier fears that children would not be persuaded to eat "healthy" food. There was roast chicken ( not organic but 'red tractor') it was such a contrast to earlier processed reformed muck we used to serve. There was fruit salad or freshly baked lemon sponge to follow. The vegetarians had mixed beans served in pitta bread with salad and vegetables.

The current political and economic climate means that local authorities and politicians are looking for easy cuts. We have come such a long way since 2005 when we began our fight to improve school meals we need to be eternally vigilant that we defend our children's right to tasty, healthy good quality school food.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Letter in todays Guardian (education section)

I had a comment I wrote on the Guardian education website published as a letter in todays Education Guardian.You can read it here

We have had huge amounts of support on twitter. It is very gratifying getting a message saying " Just written/emailed Gove"

I know it may seem like a small cut but it is vital we make our case for defending school meals for low income working families. We need to help the government to understand that school food has an important role to play in improving children's diet. All is not lost - if we can persuade enough people to write to Gove there is a good chance we can persuade him that extending eligibility of free school meals to ALL children living in poverty is a good idea.

I came across this very interesting blogpost on Lib Dem Voice Opinion: Progressives would not cut free school meals giving a lib dem perspective. It is well worth a read.

Once you have done that please click on Children's Food Campaign website to send a message to Gove. If you have already done this then please send the link on to your friends and family.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Honours for Prue Leith!

I am absolutely delighted to hear that Prue Leith who was chair of School Food Trust has been awarded a CBE in Queens birthday honours list.

Prue is an amazing woman who has campaigned/badgered/pestered/lobbied tirelessly to improve the diet of the nations children. Her down to earth approach and emphasis on practical solutions really helped School Food Trust to establish "Let's get Cooking"

She is a charming woman, full of energy and ideas who has been responsible for a massive improvement in school food.

I am so glad that this is being recognised.You can read an interview with Prue here Think maybe it is time Jamie Oliver was also honoured for his sterling contribution.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Edible Playground

Have just recently come across Trees for Cities who organise an edible playground scheme.They are an urban tree planting charity which started in London in 1993, and now have projects across the UK, South America and Africa. Their core beliefs are that tree cover and green space promote healthy lifestyles and lower crime levels by creating more welcoming streets and parks. These encourage walking, cycling and a sense of community ownership, and discourage antisocial behaviour. They believe that most deprived areas of our cities are lacking these crucially important amenities that could make a considerable difference to crime, vandalism and obesity levels.

They identify absence of natural spaces in inner cities creates a lack of knowledge about food, its origins, and how to make healthy choices about what to eat, which is an especially important issue for today’s youngest generations, many of whom are not able to see food growing.

They held a special event launch event in Rotherfield Primary School yesterday with the very lovely Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins to give a hand with the planting.

You can support their excellent work by taking part in their online auction. Visit their website for more details

Some of the lots you can bid for include :Jamie Oliver’s back catalogue of ten books, all signed

· A meal at your home for ten people cooked by Tom Aiken, Michelin-starred chef of the Tom Aikens Restaurant, Chelsea

· A set of 100 notelets from Smythson, with an appointment at their salon to have them personalised

· Wines from the Palo Alto winery

· A tree planted for you at one of our projects, with a dedication of your choice

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Update on campaign to save entitlement to free school meals for low income families

Delighted to see so many people have been prepared to mail Secretary of State Michael Gove to ask him to consider overturning his decision to scrap free school meals for low income working families. The Child Poverty Action group have done some sterling work on this and are coordinating a joint letter from major health and children's charities. They have also got some excellent press coverage.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Todays school dinner and a request for action!

This is the school lunch I ate today. While I was at school my colleague Christine did a brilliant job sorting out an easy way to complain about free school meals for working poor families being axed. Just click here to send a letter to Mr Gove outlining why we think this is an extremely bad idea.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Free school meals for low income working families axed

For a long time now I have been complaining about the injustice of working families who are under the official poverty line yet are unable to claim free school meals. This was rectified by the last government. However Michael Gove announced yesterday in a letter to Ed Balls that he would be overturning this.

This is appalling. The poorest families are being made to pay. I thought we were all in this together? I just had a look at how much the House of Commons is subsidised for their catering - hansard figures shows £6.1 million for the year 2008 -2009

Am planning to set up an online action on the Children's Food Campaign homepage so we can pass on some feedback to the government.

meanwhile, have a look at the report in todays Times

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

School Food Trust safe

Despite the rumours about the culling of quangos the School Food Trust is still with us. There has been a cut to its budget of £1 million, (about 11% of its budget). Not ideal, but could have been worse. You can read what Caterer have to say here

Incidentally the school food trust website has had a redesign. It is now much easier to use and looks much better. What do you think?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Future of the School Food Trust ?

I need to declare an interest here as I am a board member for the School Food Trust, but I am a huge fan. I think the Trust has achieved an amazing amount in the short time it has been set up. It has put in place nutritional standards that mean the substandard school meals we use to get pre 2005 are now illegal. It has helped schools realise they have a clear responsibility to provide decent school lunches. It has made the case in a scientifially robust manner that children who eat well perform better in the afternoons. The "Let's Get Cooking" programme has allowed thousands of some of the most deprived schools to run terrific cookery clubs - passing on the message that well prepared fruit and veggies can be tasty.

Yete despite these achievements it's work is not yet done. The number of school meals sold needs to rise. We know that school meals contain significantly more fruit and veg than the majority of packed lunches. Getting more children to switch from packed lunches to school meals would be an easy way to improve children's diet. School meals will only be economically viable if the majority of children choose to eat them. Economy of scale would mean that caterers could use their greater buying power to get great deals and keep costs down. Good school meals really act as a challenge to our poor food culture that allows kids to be fed crisps and sweets for lunch.

Waiting to find out what the future will now hold.NB The views expressed here are entirely personal and are not in my capacity as a board member.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Keep Campies school meals!

Thanks to the power of twitter I havbe just heard about Campie school who are being told that school dinners are too expensive. It is a school in Scotland where school lunches have been provided for free. However this is about to end yet parents are not prepared to take it lying down. I am waiting to hear what shape their protest will take but it looks like once again it is left to parents to stand up for childrens school meals. You can read more about it here
It may look like a soft cut but in the long run poor child health is going to cost us dear.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Merton Parent's For Better Food in School AGM

We are holding an AGM this Wednesday, 29 April 2010 at Poplar Primary School,Poplar Rd South, Merton Park. (2 mins walk from Morden tube) Everyone welcome!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More school pics from before Easter

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Todays ruling from Advertising Standards Agency on Kellogg's

You may remember a while back I was jumping up and down about the horrible coco pop advert on the bus stop opposite the school I teach at. I was particularly incensed because the cartoon monkey was in school uniform and the strap line was encouraging kids to eat even more of the sugary cereal than they usually do by encouraging them to eat it after school.

The Children's Food Campaign got lots of emails about this ad and so we decided to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). It is worth bearing in mind that this particular cereal is over one third sugar, so unhealthy is is banned from schools and not allowed to be advertised on children's TV. We thought that given Coco Pops is heavily marketed as a breakfast cereal the advert was clearly designed to encourage children to eat an additional bowl. The ASA disagreed and have said that Kellogg's are not being "socially irresponsible". You can see their ruling here

I was invited on to the Today programme to discuss this and have also written a blog for the Guardian, "comment is free" website. It is creating a lively debate. Not for the first time my parenting skills have been called into question!

One of the points that I have yet to get across it the fact that Kellogg's claim a bowl of Coco pops is a "moderate" snack that is comparable to a banana or a yoghurt. However they base this on a 30 g serving. A 30 g serving is tiny - most kids and parents routinely pour much larger servings. My own son when asked to estimate 30 g poured out a helping of 72 g which didn't look especially huge when in the bowl.

Thankfully the Department of Health appear to be taking this more seriously. They have told us that will be meeting Kellogg's to discuss our concerns with them. It is vital for the sucess of Change4Life that commericial partners are not allowed to undermine the importance of a healthy diet

Friday, March 19, 2010


This post has nothing to do with school food but since Nestle have bullied YOUtube into taking down the Greenpeace video I thought I would add it here and encourage you to visit the The Greenpeace site where you can find out more. The video is quite horrific and is designed to pressure Nestle into changing their source of palm oil. I am no fan of Nestle because of their appalling record on selling babymilk in the developing world.Have a look at Babymilk action who have done a great job in tackling Nestle over this. I am also truly outraged that in this day and age they can still use child labour in their cocoa plantations. It appears that nestle fail to understand the nature of social media sites as they have now upset facebook users by replacing their hello and welcome message with an instruction not to use a Nestle logo or image! Interesting blog about it here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

People Power 2010

Sitting at the first SMK foundation conference listening to Kumi Naidoo, exec director of Greenpeace International. Thought I would try a bit of live blogging. He is talking about Copenhagan - brokenhagan, jekenhagan, copout hagen. Important lesson for campaigners was how power in the world has changed.
we have to recognise that campaigners MUST learn to work together. Intersectionality (ugly word I know) but thematically connected class, race and gender.

How do we divide our energies and investments with different level of gov. Think globally, act locally - this can be flawed if real power shifts globally you take yurself out.

Insider outsider balance. We have been duped by being invited to table. Difference between access and influence. WE have been invited as a token response
Why is it govs in rich countries were able to find trillions overnight to save bank but cant find a fraction of that money for poverty/climate change. Why did we let banks get away with it.

2 tribes syndrome - one fixed on domestic issues, the other on further away stuff. We must learn how to unite them !

Struggle for jusice are marathons not sprints. Biggest contribution is to commit to a lifetime of involvement.

Does our work matter? Are we making a difference? Yes - world would be worse place without resistance. Never give ip!

Tony Benn has just arrived.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Roast dinner day!

Two of the staff enjoying a roast dinner for lunch.

Child Poverty Action Group call for free school meals

A coalition of anti poverty groups, childrens charities and unions have got together to support the campaign for free school meals for all. Thirty eight degrees have set up a simple online action you can do to support them. Please click here to send a message to your prospective parliamentary candidiates.

I am going along to an education debate this evening organised by The Times Educational Supplement so I am hoping top ask Mr Balls, Mr Gove and Mr Gove respectively where they stand on the issue of school meals.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Please email Food Standards Agency today about traffic light labelling

Dear Food Standards Agency Board,

Food labels in this country are a joke. Reading labels is a weary business as the food industry often make wild and unsubstantiated claims for their products. The Great British public have been telling you for years that they would prefer a simple easily understood scheme which all supermarkets use. The traffic light system have proved the most popular and easily understood by consumers. Your own research backs this up, as does large surveys by Netmums.

I am deeply disappointed that you aren't standing by your own evidence. But it isn't too late. You have a board meeting this Wednesday morning. Please overturn this recommendation and stick with recommending traffic light labelling. Generations of children and shoppers will thank you for this!

Yours faithfully,
Jackie Schneider

Act fast! Can you send a similar letter to Lord Rooker via

There is an article from Telegraph here with a quote from Christine from Children's Food Campaign

Friday, March 5, 2010

Have you signed yet?

LACA and Caterer and Hotelkeeper are running a campaign called "School Meals Matter" to persuade the next government they must support the school meal service by protecting the lunch grant money. Without this support the're are very real fears that the school meal service will disintergrate.

It only takes a minute so sign up now! Why not send the link to all your pals. We have seen such dramatic improvements in school food over the last 5 years - I couldn't bear to have to do it all over again because lack of investment!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Finally Poplar Primary School gets a fully functioning kitchen!

Almost 5 years to the month we started Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools the last primary school in the borough gets its own state of the art kitchen capable of cooking school meals from scratch. This week pupils enjoyed freshly cooked meals rather than the reheated meals from Wimbledon Chase. The difference was most dramatic with the vegetables. Children who previously refused to take roast potatoes now were astounded at the taste and texture of the freshly roasted ones. The chocolate and beetroot brownies, still warm from the oven, were also a big hit.
Numbers of children taking the meals are growing which is causing a few headaches for school staff but a new hall which will allow school dinners and packed lunches to sit together should sort out the overcrowding problems.

We have a Merton Parents committee meeting tonight which is mainly focusing on the problems faced in secondary schools in the borough but I should we should take a moment to celebrate our sucesses in the primary schools. Many of the parents who campaigned hard for primary school kitchens will not benefit as there children have now moved on to secondary schools. let's see if we can get the secondaries sorted before their kids move on!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Merton children star in canteen rescue film!

We had the most amazing day in Decemember 2009 filming this short film for the School Food Trust. I can not tell you how long it took to clean up the kids afterwards! The children have all attended Poplar Primary School and one of them is my youngest son.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coco Pops update

On Wednesday night I went to a meeting of The parliamentary food and health forum which is a cross party group. The subject was breakfast clubs and a speaker from Kelloggs was invited to give a presentation about the breakfast clubs they run. It was a great opportunity to question Kelloggs directly about the appalling "ever thought of coco pops after school?" ads they are running at key sites near schools.

I object to the adverts because:

1) Coco pops are a high sugar food - 34% sugar. Given most children consume more than enough sugar a day it seems irresponsible to encourage children to eat a second helping after school.

2) Dressing the coco pops monkey in school uniform is seen by many as a sublimal attempt to associate a high sugar product with the move to make schools healthier. Ironic when you consider coco pops does not meet the nutritional standards for schools so is not allowed to be served in school breakfast clubs

3)Kelloggs are a Change4Life partner and claim to be playing a role in improving children's health. This advert which encourages children to eat another bowl of the sugary cereal makes a nonsense of the change4life goal of encouraging sugar swaps ( ie substituting a high fat or sugar product such as confectionery for a piece of fruit or wholemeal toast.

When I put these points to the Kelloggs nutritionist she accepted that the campaign had been a mistake and that the ads were now taken down. She did not accept my point about the irresponsibility of encouraging children to ask for extra sugar and trotted out the weary claim that a portion of coco pops contains no more sugar than 2 slices of toast and jam. However I was able to explain how inaccurate portion sizes are as in my own personal experience I have measured portions that children pour out and they are at least 2 or 3 times greater than the recommended 30g (which barely covers the bttom of a small cereal bowl)

Although the bus stop ads appear to have been taken down in Merton I have still seen a large poster in Streatham.

So what can we do?

1) Email Kelloggs to tell them that this campaign must never be repeated
2) If you spot an ad, please leave me a comment with its location
3) Compose your own coco pops slogan! Click here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Growing food in schools

Am working on a cunning plan for Children's Food Campaign to get food growing in every school. It is great that some schools have really embraced growing and use it as an opportunity to teach science, citizenship and raise environmental issues. Unfortunately these schools are few and far between. We think it is reasonable for every child to visit a farm and take part in some hands on food growing as part of their education. We are working with some great gardening charities such as RHS, School Food Matters and Garden Organics to see how we can get together to make growing in schools a reality for every child. Will be back to share our plans soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Using new media for campaigning

I am about to head off to speak at a conference organised by NCVO about using the power of new media to campaign. I am going to be talking about how we used email/website to build Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools. Even though we were a local group we were able to spread to all of the schools using a combination of public meetings, email updates and word of mouth. I think the crucial development was being able to "crowd source"our aims and objectives so that when we were in negotiations with council we could go straight back to email membership to consult. This meant we kept maximum involvelement and could go back to campaigning at the drop of a hat. I will also be talking about tactics used to save Morden Park playing fields.

There will be speakers from British Heart Foundation and 38 degrees. If you are interested in following they will be showing it over the internet live here

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Teacher blog worth following

Click here to follow "Fed up - a teacher who is eating school lunch every day in 2010"

This is one to follow. Maybe we need to get Merton Parents for Better Food in School to send a message of support?

I am on half term holidays this week so no fresh pictures to upload

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bits and pieces

Free school meal for all?
The Childhood Poverty Action Group are currently (CPAG) are currently planning a pre election campaign on this. They have support from a number of large childrn's charities and unions and are working on campaign materials and a launch. If you are interested in helping with this let me know

School Meals Matter
Leaving aside the name which is horribly close to our good friends School Food Matters, this campaign is being run by the trade magazine Hotel and Caterer with the Local Authority Caterers Association(LACA)They are looking to persuade the government to continue supporting the school meals service with the grants budget. This is going to be a crucial issue in the coming months so please encourage your pals to sign up here

Ever thought of coco pops after school?
If you are outraged everytime you walk past one of those irritating posters exhorting the nations youth to increase their sugar consumption you may like our alterative posters! The Childrens Food Campaign have their own version here. If you click on the link you can compose your own slogan and see some others have already done.

And finally ...
The good news is that Poplar Primary School will finally be getting it's own new school kitchen after half term! It has been in the pipe line for a long time. It will be great to see it turned into a reality.

Monday, February 8, 2010

London Premiere of Food Inc

Last nights screening of Food Inc was courtesy of Stella McCartney who is behind the campaign, "meat free Monday".

The film was incredibly watchable. The graphics so beloved of the food industry of nostalgic rural idylls that adorn food packaging were adopted by the filmmakers to point out some inconvenient truths.

Anyone who has seen Fast Food Nation or read any of Felicity Lawrence's books will not have been particularly surprised by the films findings. The section that deals with the ways cows who have evolved to eat grass being force fed corn was particularly powerful as the development of e coli bacteria being introduced into the food chain plays out with devastating effects for the family of young Kevin.

The tenacity of the food industry to resist all efforts to label their products and the sheer number of lawyers and attorneys they employ is shocking.

The film touches on obesity noting that the single biggest predictor of obesity is income level. Low paid workers were shown pointing out prices of high fat, salt sugar foods compared to fruit and veg.

The film ends with an exhortation for us to vote with our purses and to choose our food more wisely. I felt this was a weak ending and needed a stronger call to action to curb the power of these powerful corporations. I think we need to demand
1) Better quality food and higher standards in the public sector such as hospitals, schools prisons
2) Strict restrictions on the promotion of junk foods to young people
3) Honest and transparent food labelling

I hope this film can be seen in lots of secondary schools. It is high time food education in schools moves beyond a discussion of food pyramids to how we are going to take on the food industry

Tonight's screening was a very glamourous affair and you can see some of the celebrity attendees here Thandie Newton, Richard E Grant and Vivienne Westwood were all there. I spent some time talking to Jeanette Orrey and Philip Lowry from the Real Food Festival about our campaign against product placement - a campaign which if the Guardian have got it right will have resulted in some protection for kids from yet more junk food advertising.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

UK premiere of Film Inc.

I am looking forward to watching "Food Inc" tomorrow evening. Stella McCartney is hosting a preview screening to support her campaign for meat free mondays.

Am planning to take my laptop along so I can post a review and some snaps as soon as I have seen it.

Click here to find UK screenings

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Product placement - no junk food allowed!

There is a report in todays Guardian saying that government has decided to not allow high fat, salt or sugar foods, (HFSS) alcohohol and gambling with in product placement.

This is great news as it means children will now have some protection from aggressive junk food marketing.It means there is now an acceptance that children do watch TV outside of children's programming and that marketing of HFSS foods is detrimental to children's health.

I think that the reason the government came to this view is the huge numbers of people who took action. All those emails and letters were crucial - so thanks very much to every one who supported the childrens food campaign.

I am still opposed to product placement and think it is a sad day for British broadcasting. However I am hoping that now junk food, alcohol and gambling are taken out it will now be no longer economically viable. I am going to a seminar this afternoon organised by Voice of the Viewer and Listener to find out more.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Todays school lunch and some thoughts about selling school food to staff

Whilst I was making my way to the school hall for my lunch today a colleague passed me and asked if the sandwich lady had arrived yet. Now normally when ever anyone tells me that there school dinners are great my one question is - do the school staff eat them? If the meals are fantastic there is usually a healthy staff take up. This got me thinking as our school dinners are good yet staff rarely pass the hall to see, let alone eat. Partly this is due to pressure of time as staff are often busy setting up for the afternoon and of course some times you need a break far away from the kids.But maybe caterers could do more to promote their meals to staff? It must be a pretty captive market judging by the amount of staff who visit local shops.

In this current economic climate caterers are going to have to think out of the box. Cultivating a school staff trade would surely help with the bottom line. One enterprising secondary school in Bristol I visited which provided outstandingly good food, used to sell trays of food to busy teachers to take home to serve their families in the evening. It isnt going to solve the funding crisis facing the school meals service but as that well known grocers says,"every little helps!"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Prince Charles and his comment to me on junk food advertising

"When you think of all the effort the government have put into banning tobacco and smoking it makes you wonder why they haven't done the same with food"

I got the chance to have a quick word with Prince Charles at the Chefs Adopt a school anniversary event. He made his feelings pretty clear where he stood with regard to the promotion of junk food.

Pictures from Chefs Adopt a School anniversary party

Chefs Adopt a School

In 1990,long before the dreadful state of school food came to public knowledge The Academy of Culinary Arts were concerned about the terrible state of food knowledge in primary schools. Alarmed at the lack of cookery lessons and high levels of ignorance about food and where it came from they set up "Chefs adopt a school". Their members visited schools, showed different foods, demonstrated cooking skills and captured the children's imaginations. They are currently working with 21,000 children every year.

Today they are celebrating their twentieth anniversary with a special cookery session at St Georges School in London. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will be present and their will be a short reception.

They have run a brilliant scheme and deserve credit for their passionate lobbying of government which has seen the return of cooking to the school timetable.

Will take my camera with me and will try to post some pictures of todays celebrations later on.

Any teachers looking for good quality cooking support in primary schools clink on the link in the first para.They run an excellent programme which I think is free to schools.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rob Rees is the new Chair of the School Food Trust

I am really pleased that Rob Rees - otherwise known as the Cotswold Chef is to become the next Chair of the School Food Trust. Rob is Director of a successful consultancy company and is the Chief Executive of the Wiggly Worm charity, which uses food projects to help and rehabilitate vulnerable and disadvantaged people. Rob was a founder member of the School Food Trust Board in 2005 and is also a Non-Executive Director of Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust, a Board Member for Visit England and former Board Member of the Food Standards Agency.

He understands the huge tasks confronting the Trust and I have every confidence he will give great leadership and will fight enthusiastically to get the school food revolution spread through out the land.

You can read more about him on the School Food Trust website

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chance to change caterers in Merton's secondary schools

Merton has 4 community secondary schools - Bishopsford, Raynes Park, Rutlish and Ricards Lodge. They are all locked into a PFI contract which means it is not the local authority that chooses the catering contractor. The school buildings are owned by New Schools who subcontract service management to Atkins who subcontract catering services at the moment to Chartwell.

After a lengthy process, the local authority has made arrangements to go out to tender to choose a new catering contractor. Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools is absolutely determined to seize this opportunity to make sure there are some dramatic improvements.

Below I have pasted the letter we have sent to the authority outlining our expectations of the new contract. At the heart of our vision is an expectation that every young person will be given the opportunity to eat a tasty, freshly cooked meal in pleasant surroundings.

Feedback re secondary schools catering contract for New Schools

Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools is a parent organisation that set up in 2005 in order to improve the quality of school meals in Merton. Since then we have worked closely with the local authority to help make improvements in the primary schools. We are keen to see similar improvements in the secondary schools and so welcome this opportunity to take part in the market testing arrangements.

Firstly, we would like you to include our aims and objectives for secondary school meals with the contract specifications ( see and click on secondary tab) These aims were drawn up with a wide range of stakeholders and were agreed by the authority. We think it would be very helpful for prospective contractors to see this. It is important to note that we expect the contract to ensure that secondary school students enjoy the same high standards as primary school students

Secondly, we would like to ensure that with the support of Merton, a member of Merton Parents is part of the group that selects the next caterer

Thirdly we would like to see the criteria for choosing the new caterers and the weighting.

Finally, I would like to say we are very excited by the opportunity that the market testing gives us to improve secondary school food and we look forward to working with you. Please let me know if there is anything else we can do.

Best wishes,

Jackie Schneider
Chair of Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools

Have I missed anything out? As soon as I get more details about the new contract and the timetable of events I will post it here

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beyond Baked Beans

Do you have teenage children looking to leave the nest? This particular cohort of young people probably missed out on the school food improvements and the return of cookery lessons on the curriculum. But fear not - the excellent organisation Beyond Baked Beans are running a campaign to get students and young people cooking. They will help young people learn to cook for themselves. Aimed at students they combine campaigning for better food with providing practical help and advice. Have a look at their website and send the link to any young people who will find it useful whatever their cooking skills.

They are also on facebook and twitter. I will definitely be suggesting that the new sixth form at Rutlish and Ricards show the site to their students

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vile coco pops ads targeting children on their way to school

This advert is on a bus stop outside Poplar Primary School in Merton. No doubt they are probably outside schools up and down the country. Coco pops would not be allowed in schools because of the high fat and sugar content. Many schools are working hard to persuade children that they shoulding be eating less fat and sugar and encouraging them to try healthier and tastier alternatives to junk food. Adverts like this do nothing to help. Yes, I know Kelloggs are not breaking the law but I think ads like this are irresponsible and unethical. If you agree please email Kelloggs to tell them so. The email address is

I think it is even more shocking when you consider Kelloggs are a change4life partner.

NEWS UPDATE: just discovered Kelloggs are on twitter. You can send a message to @kelloggsuk

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reviewing primary school meals in Merton

At last nights Merton Parents meeting we discussed the forthcoming meeting we have with the local authority and the caterers ISS Caterhouse. This gives us a brilliant opportunity to talk to the key people and raise any concerns or questions we have. I know that the caterers find it very useful as well.

If you are a parent in Merton and have any comments or questions about the primary school food then please contact us at Merton Parents. You can either leave a comment here but the best way to have your say is to sign up to our mailing list. It takes a few minutes to register but you can then get the latest news and take part in consultations and have your say.

Please encourage your friends and neighbours to comment as well. It is only when everyone gets involved that we have the power to drive through improvements!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Prue Leiths farewell speech in full

Taken from the School Food Trust website

"When I accepted the job as Chair of the Trust, I said that I thought it the most important job I'd ever done. And so it has proved.

But I did hugely under-estimate the task.

I had this naive idea that we could do the job and wind ourselves up in three years. That all schools needed to do was to teach children about food and how to cook, stop them bringing food or drinks into school, ban vending machines, close the school gates at lunch time, make the kitchens efficient and the dining rooms pleasant places to be, provide delicious healthy meals, and get the parents to refrain from rewarding their little darlings for eating up their greens by giving them a Kit-Kat.

And, I thought, in three years, almost every child in the country would have learned to like good food. Bingo, we could all go home.

I swiftly discovered it wasn't as simple as that. But we have made great progress. There are now many schools doing all, or nearly all, of those things successfully.

We've stopped the fifty-year slide in school dinner take-up, and though of course it would be great to have got the numbers back to 1960 levels, it is no mean achievement to have forty percent of children eating good healthy meals instead of junk.

I had also assumed that head teachers and governing bodies would see the point of a decent diet and good food education, would accept that healthy children would concentrate better, be happier, achieve more. And that they would be keen to upgrade their dining rooms and kitchens.

But I soon found that many teachers felt what children ate was a matter for their parents. And that available money would be better spent on something else. And that catering cost money so the less of it the better. My argument is that you would not have disgusting loos or dangerous playgrounds just because they do not cover their costs. Children should not have to spend half their break queuing, they should be able to eat in pleasant surroundings, have time to relax and not be bullied. And anyway, the better the catering operation, the more bums on seats and the closer to break-even or even profit.

But, thank God, attitudes have changed fast. Only last week I was on the Today programme expecting to have a diversion of views with the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, only to have her agree with everything I said. That would not have happened three years ago. Of course it is easier to effect change if the law is on your side, and the requirement to teach cooking in schools, and the statutory lunch standards have certainly helped focus minds.

Then I had supposed that all school cooks could cook. Wrong. Many cooks were hired in the Turkey Twizzler era when cooking wasn't needed. Well, we now have 29 School FEAST centres training, encouraging and inspiring catering staff. It was a struggle at first: it astonished me that schools and LAs, who would not dream of failing to update the skills of their teachers, seemed to think training catering staff a luxury they could not afford. But School FEAST is going like a train now, and delicious, nicely cooked, fresh food is the norm in schools, rather than the exception.

And then I had imagined that parents would be thrilled that their children could now get proper food at school. But persuading them that a £2 healthy lunch is good value when the chippy offers all-the-chips-you-can-eat for a pound is another matter. So of course we are pleased by the recent announcement of the widening of the eligibility for free school meals. Definitely a step in the right direction.

And our 3000 Lottery-funded Let's Get Cooking clubs, soon to be 5000, which are for children and their parents have been a cracking success with heartening research showing participating families not just learning to cook but changing the way they eat at home.

I am perfectly confident that the School Food Trust will continue to win over children, parents, teachers, Local Authorities, governors and caterers. In the next few years, while the press is still on our side, and Government is perforce focused on the cost of ill-health, eating school lunches will become, I believe, the cool thing to do.

But I would like to tell you, an audience that understands children and education, what scares me rigid.

It is the power of the manufacturers to sell junk to children.

With the demise of the family knees-under the table meal and the rise of the snacking-all-day culture, we could see our advances undone in the next generation.

We need to go on teaching children about food, and how to cook, and how to eat, for ever. Until we accept that teaching children to LIKE good food is as important to their future success as being literate or numerate, children will inevitably succumb to the blandishments of the chip, crisp, and chocolate manufacturers, who have massive marketing budgets and know how to sell sand to Bedouins - selling sugar, salt and fat to kids is a walk in the park.

My message to Government is simple: do not drop your guard. Keep food a priority. But I would also like to acknowledge that in forty years of banging on government doors, bleating about the importance of food in schools, this government has been the first to grab the issue and do something about it. I know they had a little nudge from Jamie Oliver's excellent work, but they have really run with it. So thank you Ed. (Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families].

I could bore for England on the achievements and dedication of the School Food Trust. I will never again complain, in a blanket way, about civil servants and bureaucrats. The 60-odd staff at the Trust, plus the Let's Get Cooking Team, are some of the hardest working, most passionate and dedicated people I have ever met. I wish I had time to laud them individually. But I will say that in 50 years, I have never worked with a better chief executive, or a nicer woman, than Judy Hargadon.

So you can see why I leave this job with reluctance. It has been fun and it's important. I am sure my successor will find it both."

Prue Leith, January 19th 2010