Beverley Baker, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA), says we must safeguard the school meals service
"LACA is delighted to have the support of Caterer and Hotelkeeper for this high-profile campaign to draw the attention of the incoming Government to the importance of the school meals service and to secure their commitment to the continuation of the School Lunch Grant.
"Without this additional funding, which is due to end next year, many local authorities will be reconsidering the level of service they can provide and the school meals service may well be at risk.
"For the sake of the future health and wellbeing of our children, we need to safeguard the school meals service. We need the combined voice of the whole of the hospitality industry behind us to do this.
"Children are the future customers of the hospitality industry and future contributors to the recruitment pool, so support for the service is an investment for the whole industry. A school meal provides the unique opportunity to engage with children in schools about the joy of eating in the company of others and encouraging them to eat a variety of foods, many of which may be unfamiliar to them, and to make healthy, balanced food choices necessary to maintain a healthy weight for a healthy life.
"There are many ways in which the hospitality industry can play a vital role and over the coming weeks you will be hearing through Caterer and Hotelkeeper how you can do that. A school lunch provides a nutritious meal every day which will ultimately help improve diets and lifestyles as well as decrease obesity.
"Please offer your support to this important cause now by signing up to our campaign."
FACTS AND FIGURES
- If a child has 1 (45g) chocolate bar, 1 (35g) packet of crisps and 1 can (330ml) of fizzy drink every school day, it will result in an extra 559 kilocalories per day. (SFT)
- The average child in the UK eats less than half of the recommended five portions of fruit or vegetables every day. (SFT)
- Up to 10% of the NHS's budget is spent treating diabetes and its complications. (Diabetes UK)
- The British Medical Association estimates that 30% of boys and 40% of girls will be obese by 2020.
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- The UK is estimated to be among the most overweight countries in the world.
- In 2004 a House of Commons health committee reported that this could be the first generation where children die at an earlier age than their parents as a consequence of childhood obesity.
- One in four children aged four is obese, rising to one in three children aged 11. (NHS)
- Overweight or obese adolescents tend to leave education earlier, and as adults earn a household average of £3,500 less each year. (SFT)
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN
Caterer and LACA need your help to safeguard healthy school meals services across Great Britain. We want you to support our campaign by filling in our petition, which asks the party leader of the incoming Government to demonstrate clear commitment to the health of the nation's children.
We also want to hear from companies, employers and individuals that are already taking steps to encourage greater engagement with food and healthy living among school children of all ages. Some have already pledged support to our campaign.
Sara Jayne Stanes, food writer and director of the Academy of Culinary Arts, which runs the Chefs-Adopt-A-School initiative, said: "School meals have suffered a lot of bad press in the past and confidence needs to be restored among children and parents alike. The academy supports the principles of the campaign and looks forward to working with Caterer and LACA to further this worthwhile cause."
Anne Pierce, chief executive at hospitality charity Springboard, added: "The campaign aligns closely with both the ethos of the FutureChef programme and the wider agenda of Springboard to enable young, unemployed and disadvantaged people into a sustainable career in the hospitality industry."
Managing partner at school caterer Brookwood Partnership Kate Martin emphasised the importance of ensuring the food served in schools is quality, healthy produce. "By educating children about how food impacts their body, performance and appearance, they can be better encouraged to enjoy a nutritious meal."