We welcome the school food policy reforms announced in the ‘Levelling Up’ white paper. It is positive to see the vital importance of school food and food education being recognised when it comes to increasing health and wellbeing.
Encouraging schools to tell parents what steps they are taking to promote good eating and food culture is incredibly important. What children experience in school will help shape their eating habits for life. The research is also clear – good school food means better attainment, behaviour and increased wellbeing.
The pilot measures to monitor compliance with the school food standards are much-needed, and we look forward to seeing more detail of the proposed inspections. But this should also include mandatory training for kitchen teams. If we don’t ensure the very people making the food know what the standards are, how can they be required to meet them?
Food education is rightly highlighted as an important tool in improving child health. It is a very welcome move to see school governors and teachers receiving training and support in this area, although we would like to see kitchen teams also included and given a chance to shine and share their expertise with pupils. Each lunchtime can offer opportunities to get children curious and interested in good food and ingredients.
While there is much to be excited about in these reforms, and we should celebrate them, we still want to see commitment to expanding free school meal entitlement. Put simply, hungry kids don’t learn. More than a million children who need a free school meal are currently missing out, which impacts their health, wellbeing and social mobility. Expanding eligibility will be key to any levelling up agenda and we hope to see this comprehensively addressed in the National Food Strategy white paper, along with the mandatory accreditation scheme for schools that will help drive standards up further.
We will continue to campaign for further reforms, until free school meal eligibility is extended to reflect the true number of children living with food insecurity, and all of the measures are in place to see the end of the postcode lottery of school food standards.