School meals

Don’t compromise on quality nutrition with free school lunches

By: Joanna Lewis Head of Policy, Soil Association
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 08:48 GMT Jump to Comments

The provision of free school meals is an important step but it is imperative that the meals still meet food quality standards, writes Joanna Lewis from the Soil Association.

The recent announcement of free school lunches for the first three years of primary school was pitched as a ‘cost of living’ measure.

This lead to inevitable sniping from the TaxPayers Alliance about money down the drain for wealthy families who can quite easily afford their child’s chorizo and sourdough sarnies for lunch.

In reality, this is an investment in all our children’s health and education of major significance. It is common sense to most parents – backed by hard evidence from the work of the Food for Life Partnership – that children learn best if they have eaten a nutritious meal.

That matters for all our children, not just the most disadvantaged. Packed lunches are no substitute; even the most conscientious gastro-Mum or Dad will struggle to make a daily packed lunch as nutritious as a school meal, thanks to the school food standards.

Research shows, in fact, that only 1 per cent measure up. Those already eligible for free school meals will also benefit from this move as it will remove the stigma which puts off around 20 per cent of disadvantaged children from claiming their entitlement.

Two important points remain for the government to get this right.

First, they need to reassure parents there will be no compromise on quality.

Not only do these free meals have to meet the school food standards, but parents would be reassured by the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark standards which guarantee freshness, quality and provenance without any increase in meal price.

Over 20 per cent of school meals - 115 million meals a year – are already Catering Mark-accredited.

Secondly, they need to extend free meals to pre-school children.

Nick Clegg’s other big innovation this September is the new early education places for 130,000 disadvantaged two year olds, but free lunches are not included in this, despite evidence of the critical importance of good nutrition for early years.

Ironically, the means test for the two year old entitlement is whether the family is eligible for free school meals for their school aged children. To complete the positive news, it is vital that the opportunity is taken to get free healthy lunches into the mouths of these children that need it most.

On the 9-10th October, the Soil Association 2013 Conference will showcase solutions and approaches to the environmental and public health challenges of our day.

Each of the days concentrates on the major themes of the Soil Association’s Work.  Day one is all about feeding people better and is hosted by Soil Association President Monty Don. Day two concentrates on the innovation we need to meet the farming challenges ahead, hosted by Charlotte Smith from Radio 4’s Farming Today. 

Find out more about the conference here 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

Comments

Latest

The RealityBites Podcast will be published each week on Monday morning and will be accessible and downloadable…

NICE has to make difficult decisions because there is not enough money in the NHS, and plays a critical role in…

The tabloids portray NICE as the angel of death, a skeletal hand withholding resource when it is literally a matter…

Public sector commitment to "open data" is patchy despite a raft of fine sounding policy statements. The "D" word…

The public sector market in the English north and midlands differs from that in the south and east. Suppliers…

The new procurement framework for Commissioning Support Units (CSUs) will not allay CCG concerns over commissioning…

With public sector austerity set to continue, governments across the world are looking to forge new relationships…

Neighbourhood planning, a measure brought in by the Localism Act to devolve power to local communities, may not…

Do you do digital? Take the test

The Information Daily is collaborating with Socitm to research organisations' commitment to and capability for a digital future.

Take the test

View Results

If you have already taken the test, you may view the latest detailed results by entering your email address below


Headline results so far: Results from 105 users

Corporate commitment: 47%
0%
100%
50%
Digital capability: 54%
0%
100%
50%

Broadcast TV viewing is down 4% but only three percent of 16-24 yr olds give a damn, too busy risking obesity…

HealthCare Innovation Daily (an Information Daily channel) is supporting Science Capital in presenting their Innovative…

VIDEO: At June’s Making a Difference with Data event, Barnet Chief Operating Officer Chris Naylor spoke…

MPs and campaigners want suppliers to be covered by Freedom of Information law, with the Cabinet Office considering…