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.


Joanne Roach said...

Really helpful chart. Always good to use actual evidence rather than what you just feel should be right.
Andrew Lansley may believe that deliberately feeding nutritionally bankrupt food to the nation's children children is better than risking a nanny state. Depending on your politics you may agree. But the uptake figures suggest that it is just an OPINION and not an expression of an actual fact about what parents are choosing.

Thanks as always.