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!

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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: