WHY WE ALL NEED TO SUPPORT SCHOOL FOOD By Jamie Oliver, July 2013 Those of you with a good memory will hopefully remember my Channel 4 series, School Dinners, which was on TV eight years ago. As a result, every newspaper, including this one, supported my call for better school food for every child in this country. The Government at the time bowed to the public pressure and agreed to invest a considerable amount of money in the school food system, and most importantly, created standards for the quality of school food. They mean that for the 190 days of the year that kids are at school, they’ll get a tasty, nutritious meal, regardless of what they’re eating elsewhere. There’s evidence that things have really improved for many kids and the School Food Standards are to thank for that. Of course, there are many schools that have already worked really hard to establish a fantastic food service, but there is a lot of work still to be done to make sure every child in Britain is included. Since 2005, my food foundation has worked hard behind the scenes to keep the momentum up and develop different ways to help schools do better when it comes to our children’s food. We’re working on an educational vegetable-box programme that’s already working well in around 30 schools up and down the UK, with plans for more. We’re also piloting our Kitchen Garden Project – an exciting, hands-on food education programme that brings food knowledge and cooking skills to life, teaching kids how to grow fresh fruit and veg and to cook themselves from scratch. This is supported with easy lesson plans for teachers of kids aged four to 11. Our aim is to plant the seed early for positive eating habits that will last a lifetime. Basically we kept working away so that when the right time came about, we’d be ready and able to help schools and kids so that not one single child gets left behind when it comes to food education. That time is now. Over the last few years, it’s true that I’ve been critical of the Government for what I see as failing our children. However, this week I’m happy to support the broad points in the School Food Plan, which has been put together by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent. They’ve spent a busy year talking to everyone
involved in the school food system, thinking about how to make the next big leap we so desperately need, and bringing together a strong panel of experts who will be instrumental in continuing with the plan. I very much believe that this plan is a real, positive step forwards in the fight for better health for all our children, and hopefully it’s the start of some big, long-term positive changes. The School Food Plan takes up the challenge that I put forward eight years ago – how do we make sure that all children can get nutritious school meals? And equally, how do we make sure that they have enough knowledge to understand what good food is, so that they can nourish themselves, and their future families? The plan also aims to motivate all too often undervalued school cooks who I believe are at the front line in the fight against childhood obesity. Henry and John know that they need to engage as many school cooks and head teachers as they can to come together to solve the problems with school food. They also know that they need to learn from the strong partnerships already in existence, and offer practical support to those that need more guidance – I think that’s why this plan has a real chance of success. I’m looking forward to seeing how the plan gets put into practice, and how they develop their mandatory foodbased standards. Whoever you are, please trust me, eating well and understanding the basics about food at school will mean that our children grow better, feel better, are more likely to fulfil their physical and academic potential and will have a much better chance of living a longer, happier life. If any of you still doubt the importance of good nutrition and food education, let me share some alarming stats. Around one-quarter of all children entering primary school at age four are currently overweight or obese and this increases to one-third by the time those kids leave primary school, at age 11. Recent NHS admission figures show that in the last decade alone, the number of children needing medical attention because they are overweight has increased from 872 in 2000 to 3,806 in 2009. That’s four times as many kids whose health has been seriously affected by their weight in a mere ten years. That’s an insane statistic and for me, definitely proves something has to be done, now. Every single child in Britain getting fed well at school and learning about food education – what food is, where it comes from and how it affects their bodies – is what me and my Foundation feel strongly about. What the School Food Plan should do – and what we will continue to support everyone with – is to ensure
that all schools are able to offer tasty food that meets nutrition standards enshrined in law, and guarantee that food education is a part of every child’s school life. Ultimately, kids are our future and they deserve good health now. It’s up to all of us to support our schools, our head teachers and our school cooks. It’s our responsibility to champion our kids being fed right, at school and at home. So, let’s all get behind the new School Food Plan. Families can support it by choosing school lunches for their children, but we all need to hold governments accountable for delivering their school food promises, because they really do matter. There’s a lot of work for Mr Gove and his team ahead, and I'm looking forward to seeing some positive results.
The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation is a UK charity registered in England and Wales (no. 1094536)