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Oliver calls for drastic action on school meals

23 February 2005 by
Oliver calls for drastic action on school meals

Jamie Oliver this week launched a scathing attack on the Government's failure to sort out school meals.

Last night (23 February) saw the first in a series of four programmes on Channel 4 called Jamie's School Dinners, in which the 29-year-old chef exposes the dreadful

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Little treasures: Oliver is passionate about the health of our schoolkids
state of school meals in Britain's schools. The first programme focused on the London Borough of Greenwich, where Oliver spent six months attempting to prove that healthy food can be cooked on a budget and that kids will eat it. Last week Oliver published his five-point manifesto for change (see below). He said: "What kids get fed at school should be our number-one priority if we're to stop the outrageous health problems of kids in this country. I've been working as a dinner lady and I've seen how important it is to get rid of the processed food that's become the staple British school dinner." Caterer is fully supporting Oliver's initiative to force school meals higher up the political agenda, and his series has already provoked a Government reaction. Last week education secretary Ruth Kelly hurriedly unveiled the Government's latest proposals to improve school meals. Key ideas included maximum levels of salt, fat and sugar in processed foods served in schools, and greater control for parents over what their children eat. Oliver hit back at the Government's suggestions, however, saying processed food should be removed from school menus altogether. "The only way I got schoolkids eating my freshly cooked meals was by banning junk food, and not giving them the choice. I'm disappointed that the Government isn't prepared to do the same. "Changing the way our kids eat is a huge task and will need the right commitment and proper money - the Government needs to invest in both our kids and our dinner ladies." But both school caterering companies and the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) reacted cautiously to Oliver's manifesto. Compass Group, whose Scolarest division is shown feeding processed food at a Durham primary school in the second programme, said it was "genuinely supportive" of Oliver's initiative. However, it did not agree with a total junk food ban. "We believe the approach has to be more balanced, not taking away the popular items completely, but serving them in moderation as part of a nutritionally-balanced menu," said a spokesman. LACA supported initiatives to improve standards, but said "restricting choice is not necessarily the answer". Oliver's five points to a healthier future - Meal's the deal: A lunchtime school dinner should give kids a third of their daily nutritional requirements. Diet also affects kids' behaviour, their physical and mental development, and their ability to learn. - Ban the junk: Schools urgently need clear nutritional standards to help them improve school dinners. Ofsted needs the standards if school meals are going to be included in inspections from autumn 2005. - Love to dinner ladies: This conscientious, dedicated but mostly invisible workforce determines the health of our future adult population. Let's invest in them, introduce real qualifications and commit money for training. - Teach kids about food: Introduce a whole school approach to food education. Put cookery back on the curriculum. - Half a quid a kid: On average, dinner ladies have between 35p and 45p to spend on food per meal, the cost of a bag of crisps. Why doesn't the Government commit specific new funding for school meals? *Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 24 February 2005*
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