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School lunches seen as key to better nutrition for UK children

26 July 2013 by
School lunches seen as key to better nutrition for UK children

Head teachers are to consider banning packed lunches and preventing pupils from leaving school premises during breaks to buy junk food as part of plans to promote healthy eating.

Leon owners Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent have delivered their School Food Plan to the Department of Education with a raft of suggestions for increasing school lunch take-up beyond the current figure of 43%.

The report found that parents spend almost £1b a year on packed lunches, but that only 1% of those lunches were nutritionally balanced. It suggested that improved nutrition would lead to better academic results.

Among the proposals are a ban on unhealthy packed lunches, the provision of subsidised school meals, cashless payments to reduce queues, and the inclusion of cooking on the curriculum until children are 14.

Dimbleby said matters had improved since Jamie Oliver's campaign against the Turkey Twizzler, but that take-up of school meals was still too low.

"The best schools find ways of making packed lunches the least exciting option."

The School Food Plan: Key Actions

1 Put cooking into the school curriculum: make cooking and food a statutory entitlement in key stages 1 to 3 (covering ages 5 to 14)

2 Introduce food-based standards for all schools

3 Kick-start greater take-up of good school food by getting independent experts to work with schools with that goal

4 Set up financially self-sufficient breakfast clubs

5 Set up flagship boroughs to demonstrate the impact of improving school food on a large scale

6 Investigate the case for extending free school meals entitlement

7 Include food and nutrition in head teacher training

8 Public Health England, which this year replaced the Health Protection Agency, to promote policies that improve children's diets in schools

9 Ofsted inspectors to consider behaviour and culture in the dining hall

10 Set up and monitor five measures to test whether the School Food Plan is working

11 Share what works well on a new website, to enable schools to learn from each other

12 Improve the image of school food

13 Bring school cooks closer to the rest of the catering sector by working with the Lunch and Hotelympia events to include school cooks

14 LACA to develop a more structured approach to training and qualifications for school caterers

15 Build a small school taskforce - including Annabel Karmel, CEDA, LACA and Brakes - to help small schools provide good food

16 Ensure small schools are fairly funded

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