Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gove happy to regulate new academies and free schools

Unbelievable! So Gove is absolutely happy to insist that the new academies and free schools he is hell bent on setting up will be forced to teach about the sanctity of marriage but completely free to serve poor quality food that doesn't meet minimum nutritional standards. Have a look at the story in todays Telegraph

This just shows how right Jamie Oliver, Children's Food Campaign and LACA are to fight this dangerous ruling. School Food Trust - please don't give this government any more cover.

Below is a copy of the letter I have sent to the Trust:

Hi Rob,

Thanks so much for your reply. I disagree that we need to collect evidence.

Firstly, we already know what happens when minimum nutritional standards are removed. The abolishing of these standards in 1980 led directly to appalling quality school meals. We certainly have plenty of evidence already to support this position.

Secondly, given how recently new academies have been released from the standards it is highly unlikely you will find much evidence of degeneration yet. However just because they are keeping largely to the standards now is no guarantee that they will do so 6 months, a year, 2 years from now. Are you not worried that if you produce a report saying that by and large the academies are keeping to the standards you will be effectively undermining the case for any school to be held to nutritional standards? I could well imagine the government using a report to make such a case.

I am concerned that Headteachers are facing very difficult financial decisions. Just last Friday we learned that music education faces a 27% budget reduction. Faced with this sort of news I am worried that some heads may well be tempted to make catering arrangements that allow them to make money from their school canteens by stocking confectionery and other items we were so pleased to see the back of.

I have huge respect for your work Rob and think that you and Judy have done a fantastic job with The School Food Trust. I am simply raising these concerns because I am deeply worried that this government is effectively engineering the demise of the standards that have done so much to protect children. I think that your review of the academies is fraught with danger and I raise this not to be difficult but as a friend.

The government are fighting on many fronts at the moment. Making a u turn on this will not cost them any money. I think it is worth pursuing.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The fight to keep nutritional standards begins

Below is the letter I had published in the Guardian:

Click here -( it is second letter down)

I've had the most fantastic responses from Jamie Oliver's team, LACA and the Children's Food Campaign.

Whilst the School Food Trust agrees with most of my sentiments they are keen to collect evidence before starting a campaign. I have huge respect for the Trust but I think their logic is flawed and that their position is highly dangerous.

Firstly, we already know what happens when minimum nutritional standards are removed. The abolishing of these standards in 1980 led directly to appalling quality school meals. We certainly have plenty of evidence already to support this position.

Secondly, given how recently new academies have been released from the standards it is highly unlikely we will find much evidence of degeneration yet. However just because they are keeping largely to the standards now is no guarantee that they will do so 6 months, a year, 2 years from now. I am worried that a report saying that by and large the academies are keeping to the standards you will be effectively undermining the case for any school to be held to nutritional standards? I could well imagine the government using a report to make such a case.

I am concerned that Headteachers are facing very difficult financial decisions. Just last Friday we learned that music education faces a 27% budget reduction. Faced with this sort of news I am worried that some heads may well be tempted to make catering arrangements that allow them to make money from their school canteens by stocking confectionery and other items we were so pleased to see the back of.

I still believe that this government is using the academies issue to engineer the demise of the standards.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

School Food Nightmare - UPDATE

If we don't defend the nutritional food standards it is highly likely school food will return to the appalling pre 2005 standards.

Considering Mr Gove is such a big fan of history it is ironic that he spectacularly fails to learn from it. In 1980 when Thatcher was busy busy ripping the heart out of the school system she abolished nutritional food standards for school meals, freed schools from having to provide them and introduced a nasty form of tendering, (compulsory, competitive tendering) which saw decent school cooks slung out on the scrap heap whilst fast food merchants moved in. She also allowed changes to the pricing system which meant unscrupulous caterers could sell junk, mark up it up, make profits while our kids health & nutrition suffered.

And what was the result? Well school numbers fell drastically (way more spectacularly than ANYTHING Jamie Oliver caused) Cooks left in droves and the standard of meals fell.

Teachers knew it. Heads certainly knew it. The Soil Association knew it. Catering staff and dinner ladies knew it. However most parents didn't. They assumed their children were being fed the sort of the food they had been traditionally served in the past.

When Jamie Oliver revealed this there was an outcry. I won't bore you with the details but suffice to say as a result the government set up The School Food Trust. It did an amazing job in drawing up new nutritional standards and kicking out the confectionery and fizzy drinks from schools that some caterers relied on to make a profit. They were criticised, mocked and ridiculed by some caterers and politicians but they stuck to their guns. They proved that you could serve tasty and healthy school meals that crucially children would eat. I was appointed as a trustee to the board so saw first hand what a great job they were doing. School meals were not all perfect but they were dramatically better than the junk served pre 2005. Anyone who doesn't believe me please look through my archive of photos.

Cue the coalition government. No one expected that they would invest in school meals and push for improvements but few expected they would deliberately try to subvert the excellent work of the last 5 years. The first thing Gove did within days of taking office was to cancel the roll out of free school meals to kids from families under the official poverty line. This money has gone from the mouths of the poor to a fund for academies.

Gove has deliberately chosen to exempt all free schools and more importantly academies from the nutritional standards. He knew it would be deeply unpopular to actively overrule the standards for all schools - there would have been a national outcry with the medical organisations, health charities and food campaigners up in arms. Instead his sly ruling that nutritional standards don't apply to academies means the standards will now be undermined as academy schools grow and grow.

So what should we do? I want the School Food Trust to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jamie Oliver, Local Authority Caterers Asoociation, Food for Life Partnership and The Children's Food Campaign. Michael Gove needs to be told in no uncertain terms to make the nutritional standards applicable to all school.

If they don't then the school food revolution is doomed. I am in the process of writing to all these organisations and I will post up their responses when I get them. We need a bit more solidarity and the above organisations should be working together much more closely.


I have now written a short etter to all the above organisations. See below.

Dear friends,

I am writing to you all to ask you to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jamie Oliver.

Refusing to insist that nutritional standards apply to ALL schools is a major threat to the school food improvements we have seen since 2005.

I urge you to write a joint letter to Gove calling on him to apply nutritional standards to ALL schools. If he refuses then start a mass campaign. You will get huge public support with medical organizations, health charities, teachers unions and parents lining up to support you.

Regardless of how tough things are for your organizations at the moment I believe the future of the school meal service depends on this one decision and a failure to stand up to Gove now will have dire consequences on the meals our children will be eating.

If you don’t win this then much of the excellent work you have done in the past will be for nothing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

background info on school meals

Friday, September 9, 2011

My first school dinner of the new school year

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm dumped!

Well my time as part of "the great and the good" has come to an end. I am no longer a board member or trustee of the School Food Trust. This government has shown no love toward school dinners and was keen to loose many of the quangos that were associated with the last labour government. The only way for the School Food Trust to survive was to become a community interest company that could bring in funding to replace the government funding. it became clear I have nothing to contribute in this shiny bright new future. I am at heart a campaigner not a salesperson. This has been a very difficult transformation for the Trust. Many talented and committed staff are amongst the casualties.

I want the School Food Trust to survive - primarily as a defender of minimum nutritional standards in schools. It also has amassed vast amounts of expertise for schools and caterers on how to run good quality school meals services that needs to be shared and widely disseminated. If it can generate enough income from local authorities and PCTs ( or wellness boards as they will now be known as) it stands a fighting chance. It is also going to look at providing services to any providers of children's food outside of a school setting.

I got a letter from Mr Gove saying thank you for my efforts but betraying no understanding whatsoever about what this role has entailed. The man has no idea of the numbers of parent's, school cooks and kids I have talked too, the number of school dinners I have eaten and the sheer volume of emails asking for help with school meals I have responded to. But it's not about me.

I am bitterly disappointed with the direction this government is headed in. I am worried sick that they will undo all the great achievements we made under the last government and that our poorest children will once again be made to pay the price of "savings" through crap food.

Finally, I put up a strong fight to get on to the board of The School Food Trust. I am not one of the "usual suspects" that often gets appointed. I did my absolute best to speak up on behalf of free school meal kids. I feel incredibly sad I won't be able to do so in the future. I know that Judy Hargadon and Rob Rees will try their hardest to steer the Trust through troubled waters and I am heartened that Pru Leith will be returning but these are worrying times

Sunday, July 3, 2011

High Lawn Primary taking "The Apprentice" approach to school dinners

Here is a Merton primary school dinner I ate last week. I have just been told that High Lawn Primary are setting yr 5 the task of designing a new school dinner menu. Please visit their class blog and give them some ideas and suggestions. I wonder if they know about nutritional standards and the need to balance the menu over a 3 week cycle?

Below is a presentation I have given about the history of school dinners

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calling all school cooks past and present

Durhan Universities are doing some research into school dinners. They are really keen to speak to anyone who has worked in a school kitchen since 1970. Ring Vicki on 07984 055590 to find out more!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The bad old days - pre Jamie

I thought it was worth remembering what we used to serve up as school dinner to our kids pre 2005. We have come such a long way since then. Just scroll back through my posts to see pictures of what the kids are eating now. I am looking to feature school food pictures from schools outside of Merton. Please send me a pic of your school dinners at your school! leave me a comment and I will be in touch.

Judy Hargadon awarded an OBE

I was delighted to read this morning that The Chief Executive of The School Food Trust, Judy Hargadon has been given an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

I have known Judy personally for the last 6 years since Merton Parents for Better Food in School began to have an impact on getting schools to improve. I personally had a deep suspicion of most civil servants and was very concerned that the majority failed to have a clue about the children's perspective. Judy however understood that we were failing to see the situation from the child's viewpoint.

She is a great strategic thinker and has given the School Food Trust a clear lead. I think she was absolutely right to start by developing school food standards so that we would have a clear regulatory framework which would protect children from being served nutritionally poor food. This was not universally popular and didn't win her many friends but she stuck to her guns.

I was particulary drawn to Judy because of her passion and zeal. For her it was more than a job and she spent many, many hours - way beyond the call of duty ensuring the detail was right. Her attention to detail is phenomenal and has made the SFT what it is today. She has of course been greatly aided by Prue Leith and Rob Rees who also deserve recognition for their roles in improving school food.

Judy has steered the Trust through the culling of the quangos and is busy developing a new way of working.

I personally have grave concerns about this governments commitment to school meals and am ready to go back to campaigning to ensure that our poorest and most vulnerable children are protected.We have won some battles but not the war. Most secondary schools in this country fail to put the nutritional needs of their students before their administrative problems. We are still failing to provide good quality tasty food cheaply and to serve it in a civilised and pleasant environment. Whilst we face appalling rates of rising childhood obesity twinned with rising poverty levels we are creating huge problems for the NHS (and yes, I know Head teachers face huge difficulties but many of them avoid doing anything)

However I am glad Judy will be at the helm of the school food trust continuing to put the needs of the children first and I am delighted that her hard work has been recognised.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All party parliamentary group on school dinners

School dinners is a bit of a niche subject. Health people tend to think of it is an education issue and education folks tend to pigeon hole it as a health issue. It is because it falls between the two that there is a serious danger that it will be overlooked. And we know what happened in the past when it was overlooked.

That's why I think it is really important that we persuade the House of Commons to set up a parliamentary group with MPs from all parties to make sure our school children get the lunches they deserve. Sharon Hodgeson MP already convenes a meeting for everyone interested in school food. We now need some coalition MPs to step up.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Your help needed to keep kids cooking in schools.

Zac Goldsmith MP has set up an early day motion in the House of Commons to persuade the government to keep cooking lessons in secondary schools. Please can you send a quick message to your MP asking them to support this motion. it is really easy as Children's Food Campaign have already done the hard work! Just click on the link below and enter your postcode. It will send an automatic message from you and if your MP is already supporting it will send them a thank you.

Please spare 2 mins to help!

Keep kids cooking in school action

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An army of campaigners

Your pictures and fotos in a slideshow on MySpace, eBay, Facebook or your website!view all pictures of this slideshow

Look what those talented, creative and generous staff at Sustain have made me for my last day at Children's Food Campaign - my very own army of campaigners. I am feeling very emotional and overwhelmed by their kindness and support so will keep this brief. I will be back soon to post more about why you should support these incredible people.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Sally the Cook!

Many happy returns to our school cook Sally. She does a fantastic job in the kitchen and has a wonderful manner with the children. She is hugely popular with both staff and children alike. Sally works incredibly hard so I think it is time we gave her a big thank you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tomato flash grow

The wonderful people at Capital Growth teamed up with B&Q to give away 100,000 tomato plants to Londoners in an attempt to get people food growing. It was extremely popular and streams of workers flooded out of offices to get involved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Today's school lunch

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prof Sugarman's ideas to reduce obesity rates

I had the opportunity to attend a seminar arranged by The National Heart Forum to hear the law professor Stephen Sugarman explain his approach to reducing diet related deaths in the UK. Put very simply he is called for performance based regulations that sees industry take responsibility for making the changes.

Rather than focusing on individuals to make different choices which are hard to keep up in the face of constant marketing and availability Sugarman suggests legislation which requires retailers and fast food/chain restaurants to reduce the amount of high fat, salt sugar products that they sell, based on industry averages so forward thinking companies don't get penalised.

There would be heavy fines which would give companies a genuine urge to unleash their creativity on how they could reformulate and move into healthier markets with rewards given for successes. Can you imagine what supermarkets and fast food restaurants would look like if they were actually really trying their hardest to shift more furit and veg? We certainly see a lot more appetising fruit displays by the checkouts thats for sure!

Sugarman thinks the fact that there is so few companies who provide the majority of our food would make it much easier to achieve. In addition the barcode technology we have would make this easy to monitor.

He went on to suggest the food industry will absolutely hate the idea and will scream blue murder and rush out more and more voluntary guidelines in an attempt to avoid this. However he promises he is happy to walk away from litigation and lawsuits in return.

What I like about his ideas is that we wouldn't need to micro manage it. If companies had a clear financial incentive to reduce HFSS foods sold year on year they would find innovate and creative ways to do it.

Unfortunately though persuading the government to do it is another matter. This current mob are already jumping to the demands of the food industry. if we do ever get a government that puts the health needs of the population before the profits of a the industry we have some great ideas to discuss. You can have a look at Prof Sugarmans ideas here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

David Cameron visits a secondary school food tech lesson, meanwhile....


...Mr Gove has cancelled the very successful "Licence to Cook" project that would have seen every high school student recieve 24 hours of basic food prep and cooking lessons during their key stage 3 years. Schools have spent the last 4 years preparing for these cooking lessons with government money already spent on equipping classrooms and training teachers. This project has been quietly dropped with virtually no media coverage. Many cookery teachers have already lost their jobs.

For years health professionals have argued that unless we halt the decline of cooking skills then many people will feel unable to choose healthier freshly prepared food as they simple lack the skills.

The Children's Food Campaign has led a passionate campaign to keep our kids cooking. If you support it then please sign up to their email list

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Today's school dinner.

This is what primary school children in Merton were offered today for lunch.Tasty. My biggest concerns now is how we ensure the lowest paid can still afford them. There is going to be a radical reform of benefits and Children's Food Campaign along with a number of charities are fighting hard to ensure that the poorest in our society still get access to good quality, free school dinners. We are particularly concerned about low paid workers who despite working long hours still fall under the poverty line yet can't afford to buy school meals especially if they have more than one child.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Perfect Burger

I have just been to see a brilliant film created by the Co op British Youth Film Academy about school dinners in a retelling of the classic Sweeny Todd story. I would highly recommend it. The picture above features 2 of the young actors. It was directed by Todd Carty and starred Richard Brimblecombe and Pauline Quirke

Thursday, May 5, 2011

School dinners at Dundonald Primary, London Borough of Merton

I wandered into the dining hall last week and was really impressed with the friendly and warm manner of the catering staff.They spoke personally to each child, encouraging some to take the salad, and discussing menus with others. No whistle blowing or shouting! The biggest problem was the acoustics of the hall which meant noise levels were high but not unbearable.

I had the chilli, but lots of the kids chose the veggie pizza which had been frshly made that morning from scratch. Every child I saw had salad and or sweetcorn. The grapes were a popular choice for pudding.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let's Get Cooking!

Create your own video slideshow at

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No budget campaigning for refugee action

I occasionally get asked to speak about Merton Parents for Better food as a case study in campaigning. I'm off to speak to a group at refugee Action on Thursday so thought I would put up the presentation.

NB. I always make the following points -

1. Our campaign was a popular one and as such we had no hostility from media and no fear of attack. Many other campaigners are not so fortunate and I respect their bravery and commitment.
2. The success of Merton Parents in improving was due to all the people who took action - not just the ones who speak out all the time!Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

More pictures of school meals

Look how far we have come! on PhotoPeach

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Salmon and courgette pasta...

...followed by apple pie. Shame that every child living under the poverty line doesn't get this for free.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Let's Get Cooking!

I spent a great day at Haydonleigh Primary School visiting the Let's Get cooking Club with Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson. The children worked with parents to prepare a carrot and coriander soup and an apple crumble.

Justin is a passionate supporter of cooking in schools and was keen to find out about Let's get Cooking clubs work. We finished off our visit with a school dinner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another great lunch

The barbecued chicken was a new recipe that our cook Sally tried out for the first time today. It was very popular with the children. We have now switched to home made coleslaw which tastes great. I am having a school lunch on Thursday in Swindon with the local Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson as we are going to visit a Let's Get Cooking Club.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today's Observer

We got a Children's Food Campaign comment in today's Observer

Unbelievable that this government really expect junk food companies to give a lead on a policy aimed at reducing the consumption of the high fat/salt/sugar products said companies need to sell more of for their bottom line.

Off to meet Defra tomorrow with some Myles and Colette from Garden Organic. We are exploring exciting plans to set up a task force to get all schools food growing. Will report back!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to influence public health ...

Here is a link to a piece I wrote for The Children's Food Campaign for The Telegraph

Not expecting a positive response!

From seed to sandwich

Grow it
Mill it
Bake it
Eat it!

Here is a great project for UK schools to help us teach children where there food comes from. The inspirational Chris Young,(featured recently in the Observer and on BBC 2's The Great British Food Revival)has come up with a great way to learn about breadmaking. If you have access to 1 square metre of ground and a handful of earth you can take part.

If you are a teacher you can get free seeds and download a guide which will take you through the whole process by clicking here Get you skates on. You need to be planting your seeds by April.

Real bread starts in a field, not a factory!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Today's school dinner at Wimbledon Park Primary School

I spent today at Wimbledon Park work shadowing the exceptionally talented music AST teacher. As part of my mission to protect school dinners I make it a principle to eat a school dinner at every school I visit so am delighted to report that the food at Wimbledon Park is excellent!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why teach cooking skills in school?

Just read this blogpost from the teacher I mentioned yesterday. Well worth a read. Jenni describes the impact that cooking lessons have had on both her and the students

Here are some pics of this weeks school dinners

Monday, March 7, 2011

Value our cooking teachers!

We have some amazing teachers in our secondary schools doing a wonderful job in challenging circumstances. I came across this video by chance on twitter through discussion with @jennitonic80 about the possibility of losing cooking from the curiculum. Jenni created it to inspire her students. But you can rest assured they don't just passively watch because she provides opportunities for them to learn by actually cooking. However this is all threatened. If we don't get Michael Gove to change his plans then our youth may lose the chance to learn how to prepare fresh food for themselves.

Please click here to send Gove a message now

And thank you to all the cooking teachers up and down the country who are doing a great job to redress the massive influence of the food industry by teaching our children basic cooking skills

Friday, March 4, 2011

Talking to kids about school dinners


I thought I would carry about a bit of ad hoc research and get some feedback on today's school dinners. I was a bit surprised how quickly the children focused on the healthiness of the meals. I think it is because the children are eager to please and think that adults are only interested in school food with regard to healthy eating.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interesting film about American school lunch programme

Well worth a watch. School food is a global issue and diet related health problems are hitting the poorest and most vulnerable citizens the world over. What a difference decent school food programmes could make if we cared enough to act.

Keep cooking on the curriculum

Our Life North West have been doing something fantastic detailed work with all sorts of communities that are more likely to suffer from poor health. One of the barriers to good health identified by several of their focus groups is lack of cooking skills. If you are not able to prepare fresh food then you are more likely to rely on processed ready meals or take-aways which are generally more unhealthy and less nutritious than freshly prepared food.

Hardly rocket science. You would think that at a society committed to improving the health of the nation would ensure that ALL kids would get basic cooking lessons to ensure they had the skills to prepare a healthy diet.

After years of campaigning we eventually won a commitment from the government to ensure that all year 9 students would receive 24 hours of practical, hands on cookery which focused on preparing family meals. Schools were given three years to prepare and money to spend on equipping classrooms and training teachers.(Incidentally these lessons will be focusing on real cooking skills not the 'design a pizza box' type lesson so beloved of the food industry)

Mr Gove,the current Secretary of State for Education has other ideas. He is keen to slim down the national curriculum and reduce the element of compulsion for schools. if he gets his way then cookery will no longer be compulsory. Secondary schools are going to be under the most tremendous pressure to improve their Ebacc ratings so many will claw back the time that would be spent on cookery lessons to spend time on subjects that improve their league table ratings.

It is vital that we keep compulsory cookery lessons. Please take 2 minutes to send a message to the government now to ensure that our voice is heard. Click here to take part in the consultation exercise that is currently going on about the school curriculum.

If we can generate a huge response to this then we stand a chance of winning.

We need the health professionals who are currently looking at obesity reduction strategies to put pressure on education to retain cooking lessons. How joined up is it too have Department of Health looking at behaviour change strategies to reduce obesity at exactly the same time that the Department of Education wants to ditch responsibility for life skills?

Can you help us spread this campaign? All suggestions gratefully received!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big improvement in vegetarian school meals

This is the vegetarian option served in school yesterday(15th Feb 2011) It is a spinach and butterbean pie which was really delicious. We have come along way from the endless cheese and pasta offerings of the past.

Is that the case up and down the country? Be interested in hearing your experiences of vegetarian school meals.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Derby Council putting pressure on schools to "reheat" rather than cook

I am deeply worried that Derby Council seems to be pressing ahead with an unpopular scheme to stop schools for freshly cooking school lunch on site in favour of a "reheat" solution. The council are encouraging schools to visit this potential supplier in Coventry. Headteachers don't seem to be in any hurray to take up this offer. According to a local newspaper only 18 out of a potential 78 schools have expressed any interest in taking up this option.

Local Head, Ian Bell has said "We want to be able to cook and control the meals for our children" Very well said. It is great to see Heads putting the needs of the children first. I can not believe anyone seriously believes reheated food is better than freshly prepared.

You can read more about this in The Derby Telegraph

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recent school dinners February 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Low income mums making the case for free school meals

I am so impressed with the parents forum in Pimlico. They held a great meeting to discuss free school meals. They got speakers from Islington and Westminster council to explain about their free school meal policies and a councillor from Westminster came along to explain why they weren't able to do it.

The parents made a short video explaining what free school meals would mean to them. It is very powerful viewing. One of the parents also made a terrific speech which I have copied below.

All of the women involved are new to campaigning but have done a really brilliant job. If you want to leave a message of support or have a question for them please leave a comment below and I will ensure that they get it.

Dianne’s Speech:

We all know why we are here today, so I thought I would get straight to the point.


It doesn’t sound a lot. Some of you may spend that on your own lunch in one day…

But to some of us, it makes a big difference. Many families that I know have two, or three or even four children in full time school. That is £35 per week. That’s the difference between getting a new school uniform, or not getting one. Getting a new winter coat. Or not always having to say “not this week”…!

We want the best for our kids. At the moment, there is a problem in Westminster with a rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. There are health programmes out there tackling this. We know from the other trials around the country that having a healthy, hot meal at lunch time directly impacts on children’s concentration levels. They are calmer in the classrooms. Not only does it improve their health but it impacts on their achievements in school. We know lunchboxes are a poor second best. Only 1% of lunch boxes in the UK meet the high nutritional standards of school meals.

So as parents we really want our kids to be able to have the very high quality school dinners that are offered in Westminster’s schools. But many of us have to choose between this cost, and other equally important things for our families.

We all know it has been very cold over the last few months. We all had to put some extra heating on. But what if you just can’t afford to put the extra heat on, because you don’t have any more money to put on the key?

How do you explain to your kids not to put the heater on, when they get up and they’re cold? To hear them say “don’t do that, or we’ll be sitting in the cold and the dark!

Why is it right that when you go back to work after being on income support, you loose this help, just because you are getting – in a lot of cases – only a few extra pounds income?

Even with schemes where you can claim some clothing allowance, childcare for the first six months and so on… eventually this also stops, and this support is taken away leaving you still on a low income. With all these challenges on families’ income, we think it is simply unfair that those kids loose out. Would it not make sense to just give all kids a free hot meal?

In Southwark they are, and in Islington. So why can’t we?!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mums in Pimlico campaign for universal free school meals

I had a great meeting yesterday with the parents and carer forum in South Westminster. They are a diverse group of parents who are passionate about the importance of good school meals. Despite there being some very wealthy areas in Westminster these parents are concerned about the large numbers of low income families who simply cannot afford school meals regularly for their children.

They are holding a public meeting on Thursday 20th Jan 10am - 12.30 at Churchill Gardens Residents' Hall. Everyone who has an interest in school food is welcome to attend. Simply email to register

It was really refreshing to meet a group of mums who don't want to take no for an answer!