Dickens Heath School featured as the venue for the press launch of new School Food Standards today (7th January 2015). The media visited the school to watch the catering team in action and to see the children enjoying their lunch. Head Teacher Jackie Nicholls and several of the pupils featured in radio interviews broadcast on Radio Heart FM, Smooth Radio and Capital FM today and the story will also feature in the Birmingham Mail on Thursday 8th January.
The Government’s new School Food Standards, for all food served in schools, came into force on 1st January 2015.
As part of today’s launch, Schools minister David Laws said:
“These new food standards will ensure that nutritious, tasty meals can be enjoyed by all children who choose a school lunch.
“Providing healthy school food boosts children’s health and education. It gives them the fuel they need to concentrate inside and outside the classroom and establishes healthy eating habits for life.”
Introducing new school food standards is just one of a number of actions that the government is implementing through The School Food Plan. They will be mandatory in all maintained schools, and new academies and free schools. The new standards are designed to make it easier for school cooks to create imaginative, flexible and nutritious menus. Although the previous standards, introduced between 2006 and 2009, did much to improve school food, they were complicated and expensive to enforce. Cooks had to use a special computer program to analyse the nutritional content of every menu which meant they couldn’t be as flexible or creative as many would like.
In trials, the new standards proved extremely popular with school cooks, 90% of whom said they were easier to implement than the old standards. They also proved just as effective at delivering the energy and nutrients that growing children need. In fact, those secondary schools that trialled the new standards reported an increase in the consumption of vegetables, leading to higher fibre, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C intake.
Henry Dimbleby, Chair of the Standards Panel and co-author, with John Vincent, of The School Food Plan, said:
“The previous standards did a lot of good in removing the worst foods from children’s diets. But when we were writing the School Food plan we met lots of wonderful cooks who felt restricted by them.
“There was a very talented Asian cook, for example, who was exasperated at having to follow the council’s three week menu plan of shepherd’s pie and fish and chips, when her pupils – most of whom were also Asian – would have much preferred naan bread and a curry.
“Other cooks complained that having to plan menus so far in advance meant they couldn’t make the most of cheap, high quality, seasonal produce. These standards will preserve the nutritional gains that have already been made in school food, while allowing greater flexibility.”
The new standards include:
- One or more portions of vegetables or salad as an accompaniment every day
- At least three different fruits, and three different vegetables each week
- An emphasis on wholegrain foods in place of refined carbohydrates
- An emphasis on making water the drink of choice:
- Limiting fruit juice portions to 150mls
- No more than two portions a week of food that has been deep-fried, batter-coated, or breadcrumb-coated.
- No more than two portions of food which include pastry each week.
Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health, University of Oxford said:
“We know that children are continuing to eat too much saturated fat, sugar and salt. It is vital that the food children are offered in schools is nutritious and helps them to learn about the basics of a healthy diet.
“The pilots we ran were very encouraging and clearly enabled cooks to develop nutritionally balanced menus. We saw a real boost in the variety of vegetables offered, helping to increase intakes of fibre and essential nutrients.
Schools and caterers across the country are excited about the benefits the new standards will bring. Steve Lancashire, Chief Executive of The REAch2 Academy Trust said:
“REAch2 is proud to serve food that meets the new school food standards. Providing meals that look amazing, are healthy and taste delicious.
“We are passionate about providing a wide range of food across the school week. Variety is key and each of our schools has an opportunity to use fresh, sustainable and locally sourced ingredients.
“The standards ensure that all our children are able to enjoy quality, healthy and tasty food”
Richard Flynn, Sales Director at Caterlink said:
“Caterlink are excited about the introduction of the new school food standards.
“We believe that they will make a really positive change for both our customers and our staff preparing Caterlink’s fresh meals daily.
“We are ready to go and look forward to them really helping to deliver an even better school meals service.”