Councils champion school meals experience

Today we’re celebrating thirteen councils joining us on a mission to get more children eating school mealsKitchen1

Following the launch of the School Food Plan in 2013, we’re working with the local authorities* across the South West, South East and East Midlands to help schools encourage more pupils to opt for lunches in the canteen.

The scheme, which sits alongside the Government’s funding of free school meals for infants, is designed to help junior and secondary schools get more children choosing the school dining room at lunchtime.

Commissioned by the Department for Education, we’re giving specialist training to local authority and academy trust teams so they can help schools get more children opting for school meals, focusing on the small things which can make a big difference. We’re also offering these schools ready-made marketing programmes to get pupils excited about school meals, along with site visits and one-to-one support on operational issues.

Support is available in other regions from the Food For Life Partnership – led by the Soil Association – and the Design and Technology Association. As Ofsted announces that healthy eating will be part of school inspections from September 2015, all three organisations are urging schools not to miss out on a share of more than one million pounds worth of training, support and materials.

Linda Linda Cregan, our Chief Executive Officer, says: “Rightly, there’s been a heavy focus on supporting infant schools to make sure they were ready to deliver free school meals for all their pupils, but if we want that legacy to last throughout children’s school years, we have to make sure help gets to other schools, too. And with Ofsted’s inspection framework including such an emphasis on food from September this year, there’s an even bigger incentive for schools to get this right. That’s why we’re so delighted to welcome these local authorities on board and why we’re keen to talk to more local authorities and schools in these regions to make sure they’re getting a share of this invaluable support.”

Libby Grundy from the Food For Life Partnership said: “Improving school meals has been put on the plate of head teachers, caterers and school business managers in recent years and this support package is an ideal way they can access expert support. Improving school meals will in turn lead to improvements in attainment and behaviour which is great news for any school. I am delighted that Ofsted inspections will now include school food; schools need not be daunted by this and if staff at junior or secondary schools need a little extra support then the packages on offer across England can make all the difference, but time is of the essence so please register now.”

Louise Davies from the Design and Techology Association said: “Our programmes provide tailor made support for schools so that they are totally supported in making changes to school meals and learning about food choices. Every headteacher, governing body and food teacher needs to grab this opportunity for fully funded and proven solutions immediately.”

*We’re working with with Swindon, Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, West Berkshire, Bracknell Forest, Reading, Wokingham, Windsor and Maidenhead and Portsmouth local authorities in our Make School Meals Count project.

For more information on the support available across the country under the scheme, click here.


School food in debate: #uksbmchat

??????????????????????????????????????????????????This weekend, we were invited to host the regular Sunday night Twitter chat for school business managers, at #uksbmchat.

The focus was all things school food, catering questions and free school meals for infants. After a busy week of announcements, there were lots of great questions and much to talk about!

Check out UKSBMChat‘s Storify of the chat here:

[View the story “School Catering Funding & FSMs – led by the Child Food Trust, 08/12/13” on Storify]

Don’t forget, if you’ve got school food questions or would like to talk in more detail, you can always tweet the Trust @childfoodtrust or drop me a tweet @cft_jeremy.

Jeremy Boardman heads up our schools support services. Email Jeremy.

Are universal free school meals the way to make sure all children who most need them, get them?

Jo Nicholas (1)Jo Nicholas, our Head of Evaluation, blogs for Society Central:

“…..there are two gaps which need addressing here: getting families to register for free school meals in the first place, then getting them to take up the meals once they have.

“Does it actually matter? Well, 3.6 million children are living in poverty in the UK today: that’s 27 per cent of children, or more than one in four. In some areas, 50 to 70 per cent of children are growing up in poverty. These children can’t afford to miss out on a nutritious meal, in every sense of the phrase: a better lunch at school improves children’s focus and performance in class. It’s a crucial factor: currently, by the age of 16, children eligible for free school meals achieve 1.7 SAT grades less than their wealthier peers. School lunch can also be the only proper meal of the day for a child living in poverty, and school meals still outdo the vast majority of packed lunches when it comes to nutrition both in primary and secondary schools.”

Read Jo’s full post.

A watershed moment for school food?

Rob Rees, Children's Food Trust ChairmanBeing completely honest, there are a lot of people who’ve asked me over the last year whether the government’s school food review would come up with anything ‘new’. Was there a silver bullet that no one had ever thought of? Were there great ideas which hadn’t been tried? Was a ‘eureka!’ moment likely?

And while many of the themes and ideas will be familiar to everyone involved with school food, what is new is that this is a shot in the arm for the message that people like us champion every single day:  great food in schools is important. Eight years on from Jamie’s School Dinners, maybe our country was in need of a prod to remember what great school food can do for children, and what has to be done to help schools produce it.

Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, with the support of an expert panel, have done a great job of underlining the things that work, where the effort needs to be focused – and by whom. Look back to Jamie’s original 2005 Feed Me Better manifesto and you’ll find some similar themes: the need to keep being creative with food to get more kids eating school food; the need to better train and support staff; the need for a long-term national commitment and funding.  Read the 2005 School Meals Review Panel report and appendices – commissioned by the then government to set out the actions needed after Jamie’s campaign – and you’ll find recommendations around increasing take up, teaching children practical cooking, improving the quality of food, the need for good sources of information on how to do school food well and supporting staff with training and funding. Look at the things that organisations like the Children’s Food Campaign, Chefs Adopt a School, Food for Life Partnership, LACA, School Food Matters, the Children’s Food Trust and many others have been working on since then and you’ll be able to match many points. But perhaps others who are more removed from the day-to-day realities of school meals had assumed that just because we know what works, the job was done. Far from it. That’s why this review was important.

We always knew that government, caterers and schools would have to be in this for the long-haul. Whole-scale change takes time. Will we still be talking about Henry and John’s recommendations in another eight years?  I sincerely hope so. I hope that in eight years time, we’ll be talking about how this latest national school food plan galvanised government – and politicians of all parties – to keep up a sustained commitment to good food in our schools. I hope we’ll be talking about how more head teachers across the country were inspired to take a lead on food in their school – not settling for something that’s less than their pupils deserve because it feels too hard a problem to tackle: there is lots of help out here for you. I hope that strong support nationally and locally – together with the funding announced today to help – will have meant that the great lunchtime experience already being delivered to many children becomes a great experience delivered to them all.

To all the nay-sayers who will question the value of this review: anything which reminds us all of why we need to get food right in our schools is ok by me. Now let’s all get on with the job.

What is it about headteachers who get stuck in on school food?

Do they all share certain character traits? Are they ‘foodies’ at home? Do they simply have more time on their hands than other heads?


Nope, not necessarily, and definitely not. But all of the heads I’ve met who are doing a sterling job on food do share one thing in common: they want to get what they’re paying for. More precisely, they want the parents at their school – and, so, the kids – to get what they’re paying for: great food and a great experience…..

Read more of Jeremy’s blog on the School Food Plan Tumblr, under Tuesday 9th July 2013….

Get what you want….what you really, really want from your school food

??????????????????????????????????????????????????  This week, I’m attending a fantastic workshop to launch a Food Partnership for Lambeth conference called ‘Who Feeds Lambeth?’

In this borough – the fifth most deprived in London, where around a third of children live in poverty and where children have higher than average levels of obesity – they’ve been doing lots of work on using good food in schools to support children’s health, as well as health for the wider community.

There’s a dearth of primary school places here (as there is across inner London), so schools and the council are having to do lots of thinking and planning about how they’ll meet demand in future. It also means that when it’s time to renew their school food contract, it’ll be a huge opportunity.

Reviewing your school food contract – whether it’s a local-authority-wide contract serving lots and lots of schools, or your own individual contract with a private caterer – is your chance to think big and go shopping. It’s your blank piece of paper to sketch out what you want your school food service to deliver – not just the practical elements (though they’re important), but also how you’ll want it to fit with the ethos of your school, the environment in which you want your students to eat and how your work on good food can help the wider community too – you might want to open your kitchens for community training or cooking clubs, or champion the example of good school food to promote better choices by the whole family. What do you want to do differently? What should stay the same? Is there anything new you want to try?

It’s often said of project management that if you invest the time to come up with a really clear brief, you’ll reap the rewards in the delivery. That’s why reviewing your catering service and coming up with a strong specification is so important. It’s easy to get hung up on things that you’ve always done (or always moaned about). But get talking to parents and children; give yourself some head-space to get creative; try to erase what you already know and design the service you’d want if you could wave a magic wand. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Looking forward to hearing views from lots of Lambeth headteachers on Wednesday!

Read more in our guide to reviewing your catering service. Get tips on running a tender using our free quick guide to retendering your catering service or talk to our experts for more detailed advice. We’re here to help.

Jeremy leads our team of experts who support schools with all aspects of catering. Email Jeremy.

‘Good food: why it should be a no-brainer for every school’


Well why not ? Long gone are the days of overcooked cabbage and lumpy custard served in silver tureens…

At Manchester Health Academy we strive to ensure our students are equipped for the future by emphasising the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We work closely with Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust to embed health across the Curriculum.

Food figures in all aspects of Academy life – the opportunity to take part in tasting sessions provided by Maureen, our Catering Manager, cooking with a Master Baker who understands the importance of healthy nutritious food, chance to achieve a GCSE in Food Technology in our state of the art specialist cookery room, chance to taste food from around the world cooked by our parents, chance to grow an array of fruit and vegetables on our own allotment as part of enrichment, chance to take part  in our themed  health days where food is always  on the menu.

As adults, we take responsibility for the young people who we get to know during their school life. Surely we have a moral obligation to ensure that as well as providing children with a diet of fractions and metaphors, we provide the fuel to help them in their learning?

Our students’ lunchtime experience is a positive one. Cashless catering means students are served quickly and efficiently by Maureen and her team…. they know our students names and encourage them to try the latest new taste.

Most teachers see personal, social and health education as a necessary part of the curriculum – and OFSTED endorse this by sharing evidence of good practice within schools.

How many times do teachers stand in front of a class who are desperate for food to get them through to the end of the day? As a parent of a 14-year-old whose appetite is voracious and who is growing by the minute, I understand his need for replenishment. Students get grumpy as blood sugar drops and tummies start to rumble. How many friendship issues occur around lunchtime?

As a “Healthy School” we jump at opportunities to engage with students in creative and imaginative ways. Health messages are consumed more readily when students are engaged and see the relevance to their own lives.

We are the role models for students – we are careful about the language we use, we are experts in engaging with young people ,we are acutely aware of the pressure they are under to do well and grow up to be successful adults. We should therefore be doing our utmost to make sure the food they consume on our premises is as good as it can be….

Helen spoke about Manchester Health Academy’s work on food at our Children’s Food Conference in March.