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