Thank you for contacting me about school food.
All children should be able to enjoy healthy food at school every day and develop healthy eating habits that will stay with them throughout their lives.
Schools Food Standards provide a legislative framework to ensure maintained schools provide children with healthy food and drink options, and to make sure that children get the energy and nutrition they need across the school day.
The standards allow school cooks more creative freedom to adapt to the preferences of the children at their school, source seasonal or local food, take advantage of price fluctuations, or create dishes that suit their particular talents, which they can be confident are also nutritionally sound. Parents will also more easily be able to know if the food served to their children meets the standards.
The standards state that schools must provide fruit and vegetables every day, at least three different types each week and no more than two portions of deep-fried food a week. For several types of food, such as salt, fruit juice and starchy food cooked in oil, the standards are tighter. In trials, the standards proved extremely popular with school cooks, 90 per cent of whom said they were easier to implement than the old standards.
Schools must also provide access on their premises, at all times, to free drinking water. I would encourage schools to consider whether they are doing all they can to make free water visible and easily available.
To address the individual asks of your email please see the below information on:
Soft Drinks Levy
I welcome that the funds for the National School Breakfast (NSB) Programme and other successful programmes have come from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. This demonstrates how these funds have been used, as was intended, to invest in improving children’s health and providing them with healthy food. The soft drinks industry levy has undoubtedly been a success, with the latest statistics showing sugar content of soft drinks dropping by 44 per cent. The sugar content in breakfast cereals, yoghurt and fromage frais has also dropped.
Schools are expected to act reasonably in their food provision and take into account the religious, cultural and special dietary requirements of their pupils. Schools should also consult with parents when amending their food provision and they should ensure that parents have access to information on the food that is provided. Schools may consider providing halal and non-halal food each day. They should also ensure that dishes are clearly labelled.
It is good to see continuing support for schools and children so that they are able to benefit from our breakfast club programme, which has established or improved over 1,800 breakfast clubs in schools located in the most disadvantaged parts of the country.
Up to £35 million is being invested into the National School Breakfast Programme, using funds from Soft Drinks Industry Levy revenues. Ministers have announced that the programme will be extended by a further year, until March 2021, with up to an additional 650 schools being supported.
Food Labelling (including diabetic pupils)
The School Food Standards say that schools should ask suppliers for nutritional information. Schools can make this information available for pupils and parents, and they should also provide information on the allergy ingredients of the food they serve.
I recognise that food labelling is particularly important for pupils who suffer with conditions such as diabetes. If your school has an external caterer, you may want to consider contacting the caterer for a detailed fact sheet about the ingredients and content of the food.
You may find documents such as University College Hospitals’ ‘Carbohydrate Counting in Schools’ factsheet useful, it offers information on carbohydrate counting as accurately as possible at school.
National Food Strategy
I very much welcome the publication of the first part of the National Food Strategy, which will kick start a full review of our food system. I have read with interest the recommendations made in the report, in particular those concerning nutrition for disadvantaged families and children. A key recommendation is to expand the number of eligible children for free school meals by an additional 1.5 million, taking the total number of children to 2.6 million. The coronavirus outbreak has made the importance of good nutrition for children even clearer and I am sure that Ministers will consider these recommendations carefully.