The Prince of Wales last night urged schools and hospitals to group together to buy locally sourced food from hubs of local farmers.
Speaking at a gathering of school caterers at the inaugural Food for Life Partnership Awards ceremony in London, he said: "This would massively reduce transport costs and food miles, while contributing greatly to local economies and to patient and pupil health. In other words, it would be possible to create a genuinely virtuous circle."
Prince Charles said that, while real damage had been done to the nation's health by the over-reliance on packaged and processed food, there are signs of real optimism in the school meals service.
"Things are beginning to change, not least as a result of the heroic efforts of a really remarkable man, Jamie Oliver," he said. "And at the heart of the progress which has been made is the work of the Food for Life Partnership."
Led by the Soil Association, the Food for Life Partnership is a network of 500 schools across England aiming to transform their food culture, with a further 50 joining every month. Funded by a £16m grant from the Big Lottery Fund, the Partnership is supported by the Focus on Food Campaign, Garden Organic and the Health Education Trust.
However, Prince Charles stressed that it is not enough just to offer healthy food. "The take-up of school meals rises when school meal changes are supported by practical food education like learning to cook, growing food and visiting farms to learn where food actually comes from," he said.
By Janet Harmer
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