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