Jamie Oliver says school meals review will delay progress

Jamie Oliver says school meals review will delay progress

The Government has been accused of dragging its feet on the issue of school food after it was revealed that Leon co-founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent have been asked to conduct an independent review.

They have been tasked by education secretary Michael Gove with creating an action plan to accelerate improvement in school food and determine the role of food more broadly in school life.

But celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) have criticised the decision, claiming that Gove is obstructing improvements to children's health by ordering an inquiry into school food that is unnecessary, will waste time and is likely to be ignored.

"Now is not the time for more costly reports. Now is the time for action and that doesn't seem to be what we get from Mr Gove when it comes to school food and food education," Oliver said. "This just delays action for another year or more.

"I'm fairly confident that the gentlemen from Leon will end up pushing for the same things that I, and many others, have been pushing for for years, but the question is: will Mr Gove listen?"

LACA chair Lynda Mitchell expressed disappointment that another review of school food was to take place instead of action.

"While bringing in catering operators from outside the school meals sector may provide a different view, we remain concerned about the time this will take and the impact on the lives and attainment of the children who will not receive the benefits of good, nutritious food in school in the meantime," she said.

Mitchell added that, in light of the announcement, LACA expected to be consulted in order to bring its front-line experience of school food delivery to the review.

However, the School Food Trust welcomed the plan for a new review. The charity's chief executive, Judy Hargadon, said that Vincent and Dimbleby were people who really understood the challenges and complexities of delivering high-quality, tasty food for lots of people very quickly.

"We agreed with Government a long time ago that the sensible time to launch a review was following completion of our study of food in secondary schools," she said. "In assessing all the progress that has been made, the key thing here is deciding how best to help our schools and caterers keep that progress going."

Vincent said that he and Dimbleby were looking forward to taking Leon's mission to make it easy for everybody to eat good food into the school food arena. He added: "We join a powerful and growing team of people who have done so much. What we all now need is an action plan that gets to grips with exactly how the ideas and dreams can be implemented for all kids."

Dimbleby said: "There is so much good work being done to improve school food by people in schools around the country. Our job is to find out which schools are doing well and why. This is a great opportunity to work with those people to set out in a systematic way what needs to be done to nurture and accelerate those improvements."

A recent history of school meal reviews
1992 The Government's strategy for health in England The Health of the Nation was published. The Government also committed itself to participation in the World Health Organisation "healthy schools" initiative.
â- 1992 The Expert Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines for School Meals was established by the Caroline Walker Trust.
â- 2002 Re-introduction of Food Based Nutritional Standards.
â- 2005 Jamie Oliver TV Series on Channel 4/launch of his school meals campaign,
â- 2005 School meals review panel set up.
â- 2006 Amendments made to the Education Act to pave the way for the introduction of new Nutritional Standards 2007, 2008 and 2009 (England only).
â- 2012 Announcement of new independent review of school food by Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

School meal provision in numbers
â- Take-up of school lunches is just 38% in secondary schools and 44% in primary schools
â- Only 22.5% of schools provide at least one portion of fruit and veg per pupil every day
â- Half of secondary schools offer pizzas and starchy food cooked in oil on most days
â- A third of young people are not choosing a healthy, balanced meal at school
Source: School Food Trust

By Janie Manzoori-Stamford

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