FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...

 
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
FEEDING OUR FUTURE
An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
FEEDING OUR FUTURE

                           REPORT AUTHORS:
       Simon Kenton-Lake, Josephine Heger, Rebecca Tobi, Indu Gurung
                                                                                    Contents
Peas Please Project Board and           With many thanks to our case study          Introduction                                    3              5. Food waste                                   27
report contributors:                    contributors and guest editors:                                                                                 Case Study: Zero Waste Scotland            29
                                                                                    State of the Nation                             4
Rebecca Tobi – Food Foundation          Hannah Baugh – Autograph Education, Mitie
                                                                                                                                                   6. Beyond the school gates                      30
Indu Gurung – Food Foundation           Lynette Brooks – Food Sense Wales           School Food – Why is it so important?           6
                                                                                                                                                        Case Study: Veg Power                      33
Amber Wheeler – Food Foundation         Karen Dorrat – Veg Advocate
                                                                                                                                                        Case Study: Healthy Living Programme       34
Anna Taylor – Food Foundation           Jayne Jones – ASSIST FM                     1. Making a meal of learning and wellbeing      9
Sophie Peters – Food Foundation         Kim Smith and Bee Wilson – TastEd
Jo Ralling – Food Foundation            Kathryn Neil – Healthy Living Programme     2. Procurement: putting our money where                        Conclusion: the need for an integrated
Raf Bogan – Food Foundation             Sofia Parente – Sustain                     their mouths are                                12             ‘whole school’ approach                         35
Roz Salik – Food Foundation             Catherine Pendreigh – Food for Life, Soil         Case Study: Food for Life Scotland        14
                                                                                                                                                   Summary of recommendations                      36
Jenny Sutherland – Food Foundation      Association                                 3. In the dining hall                           15
Katie Palmer – Food Sense Wales         Eleanor O’Rourke – Zero Waste Scotland                                                                     The vicious veg cycle of low consumption
                                                                                          Case Study: Sustain (F&V scheme)          20
Pearl Costello – Food Sense Wales       Rebecca Stevens – Veg Power                                                                                among school children                           37
                                                                                          Case Study: TastEd                        21
Bron Davies – Food Sense Wales          Morven Summers – Veg Advocate                     Case Study: Autograph                     22             The virtuous veg cycle to increase
Sian-Elin Davies – Food Sense Wales     Louise Ulrich – ISS Food Services                 Case Study: SHEP                          23             veg consumption among school children           38
Michele Shirlow – Food NI               Mark Stein – University of Salford
Lindsay Curran – Food NI                Judith Gregory – Cardiff Council and LACA   4. School growing schemes                       24             References                                      39
Pete Ritchie – Nourish Scotland         Wales                                            Case Study: ISS                            26
Simon Kenton-Lake – Nourish Scotland
Irina Martin – Nourish Scotland

PEAS PLEASE SUPPORTS THE                A BIG THANKS TO OUR FUNDER, THE
                                        NATIONAL LOTTERY COMMUNITY FUND,
                                        FOR SUPPORTING PEAS PLEASE

                                                                                            Introduction
                                                                                            C
                                                                                                   ovid-19 acted as a salient reminder that schools are not merely places where children go to
                                                                                                   learn. Rather, they also provide children with a space to socialise and a reliable source of food
                                                                                                   (for some) every day.

                                                                                            Peas Please is a partnership project working across all four UK nations to get everyone eating
                                                                                            more veg. School children are a particular focus for us given the concerningly low levels of
                                                                                            vegetable consumption in this age group, with school food providing a real opportunity to support
                                                                                            improved nutrition and veg intake among kids. This report takes a candid look at the UK’s school
                                                                                                                      food system, picking out examples of good practice from across the four
                                                                                                                          nations, identifying opportunities for positive change, and making
                                                                                                                             recommendations for policy and decision makers.

                                                                                                                               The report is accompanied by four State of the Nation sub-
                                                                                                                                reports which provide more detail about school food provision in
                                                                                                                                 each of the individual nations.

                                                                                                                                  A full summary of our
                                                                                                                            recommendations for policy makers
                                                                                                                          can be found at the back of this report.

                       white   REPORT DEISGN
                               whitecreativecompany.co.uk

                                                                                                                                               3
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
FEEDING OUR FUTURE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             STATE OF THE NATION

                                                                                                                                                                       FIGURE 2

STATE OF THE NATION.                                                                                                                                                   STATE OF THE NATION – COMPARISONS IN SCHOOL FOOD PROVISION*

What's the current                                                                                                                                                      Number of schools
                                                                                                                                                                                                      England

                                                                                                                                                                                                      24,360
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Scotland

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2,500
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Wales

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 1,480
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Northern Ireland

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               1,134**

situation across the UK?
                                                                                                                                   2012
                                                                                                                                 - 2016   2.3
                                                                                                                                                                        Pupil population              8.89 million                  702,197                       469,176                      344,900**

                                                                                                                                                                        Number of daily               3.1 million                   350,000                      Not known                     162,600**
                                                                                                                                                                        meals provided

FIGURE 1                                                                                                                                                                Percentage eligible           21.6%/18.9%                   37.4%***/~15%                20%/18%                       28.5%/37.1%
THE AVERAGE NUMBER                                                                                                                                                      for FSM (Primary/
OF VEGETABLE PORTIONS                                                                                                                                                   Secondary)
EATEN BY REGION1 AND
AGE GROUP BETWEEN                                                                                                                                                       Take-up of FSM                86%/79%                       ~81%/72.8%                   77.4%/77.4%                   77.1%/72.2%
2012–2019 (YEARS 5–11                                                                                                                                                   (Primary/Secondary)
OF THE NDNS)                                                                                                 SECONDARY
Across the devolved nations,                                                                                                                                            Take-up of paid-              34%/32%                       Not known                    Not known                     29%**
                                                                                                               SCHOOL
                                                                                                                                                                        for school meals
vegetable consumption remains well
below recommended amounts, with                                                                                  1.8                            SECONDARY SCHOOL
                                                                                                                                                (11–16 YEARS)           (Primary/Secondary)
vegetable intake lowest in Northern                                                                             PRIMARY                                                 Universal Free School         Reception, Year 1 &           Primary 1 - 3                No.                           No.
Ireland. This suggests schools                                                                                  SCHOOL                          PRIMARY SCHOOL
                                                                                                                                                                        Meals                         Year 2                        Primary 1 - 7 as of
                                                                                                                 1.3
                                                                                                                                                (5–10 YEARS)
may well provide much needed                                                                                                                                                                          (Gov UK, 2021a) .             August 2022.
opportunities for interventions that
aim to increase children’s daily                                                                                                                                        Vegetable provision           Schools should offer          At least two portions        At least one portion          At least two portions
intake of veg.                                                                                                                                                          as per school food            one or more portions          of 40g (primary)/80g         of vegetables or salad        of vegetables or salad
                                                                                                                                                                        standards                     to pupils at lunch            (secondary) as part of       must be provided              must be available per
                                                                                                                                                                                                      every day                     school meal.                 each day (primary).           child throughout the
                                                                                                                                                                                                      (School Food Plan,                                                                       lunch service.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      2014).                        Portions of vegetables       At least two portions
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    must be made                 of vegetables or salad        Pies, casseroles, stews
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    available when other         must be provided              and other composite
                                                                      SECONDARY
                                                                        SCHOOL                                                                                                                                                      food is served               each day (secondary)          main course dishes

                                                                         1.4
                                                                                                                                 SECONDARY                                                                                          (Gov UK, 2020b).             (Gov UK, 2013).               must contain 40g
                                                                                                                                   SCHOOL
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               of vegetables per
                                                                        PRIMARY
                                                                        SCHOOL
                                                                                                                  SECONDARY
                                                                                                                    SCHOOL
                                                                                                                                     1.7                                                                                                                         (Vegetables exclude
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 potatoes.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               serving, in addition to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               two separate portions

                                                                         1.0                                         1.6
                                                                                                                                   PRIMARY                                                                                                                                                     of vegetables or salad
                                                                                                                                   SCHOOL

                                                                                                                                    1.8
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               (DENI, 2020).
                                                                                                                     PRIMARY
                                                                                                                     SCHOOL                                             Provision of a School         Children aged 5 to 7          There is a scheme            No such scheme.               No such scheme.

                                                                                                                      1.5                                               Fruit and Vegetable
                                                                                                                                                                        Scheme
                                                                                                                                                                                                      attending state-funded
                                                                                                                                                                                                      primary schools in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    providing free
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    breakfast in selected
                                                                                                                                                                                                      England receive one           councils, but this
                                                                                                                                                                                                      portion of fruit or           includes fruit rather
                                                                                                                                                                                                      vegetable each                than veg.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      school day.

                                                                                                                                                Sources: NDNS, years   * Measurement of some metrics reported in the table above vary slightly across the nations.
                                                                                                                                                5-11 combined, 2012-   ** This figure includes nursery schools
                                                                                                                                                2019. Waves were       *** The figure for FSM eligibility across Scottish primary schools includes UFSM provided to P1–P3. Universal Provision is excluded in England from
                                                                                                                                                combined to increase   FSM figures. The take-up of FSMs in Scotland is an estimate, for further details see the technical report.
                                                                                                                                                sample sizes.
                                                                                                                                                                       Sources: England (School Food Plan, 2013; Gov UK, 2020a, 2021b); Scotland (Government, 2019; Mckendrick et al., 2019); Wales (Welsh
                                                                                                                                                                       Government, 2020c); Northern Ireland (DENI, 2021; Mcclure and Mcnally, 2021)

                                                                                                                                                                       For further information on the figures used in this table please refer to the sources cited above.
                                                                                                                                                                       Further information on the devolved nations can be found in our technical reports on The Food Foundation website.
It is worth noting that the sample sizes for children in Scotland and Wales are smaller than for England and Northern Ireland.
1

                                                                                           4                                                                                                                                                    5
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
FEEDING OUR FUTURE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         SCHOOL FOOD – WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

School food – why is it so important?                                                                                                                                                       OUR VEG CONSUMPTION SNAPSHOT SURVEY

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Peas Please ran a school food questionnaire with the Children’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Right2Food campaign between May and July 2021 to better

S
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 FIGURE 3
        chool food and meal programmes have a long history                                  Now that so many children and teenagers are living with                                                       understand food and veg provision in UK schools. The survey                                         DOES YOUR
        in the UK. They were initially started to alleviate food                            obesity and overweight, the need for school food to                                                           was hosted on the End Child Food Poverty website, with                                           SCHOOL OFFER
        insecurity among children by providing them with at                                 provide nutritious and well-balanced meals is as important                                                    325 families and children from across the devolved nations                                         VEGETABLES?
least one reliable meal every day. Since then their focus has                               as ever (Children’s Right2Food, 2021). British children eat                                     responding3, 46% of whom receive Free School Meals. Although the sample
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     YES
shifted from food provision to food quality, healthfulness and                              an increasingly large proportion of ‘ultra-processed’ foods                                     is small and not representative, it provides valuable insights on the veg being                                                 ,E
supply chain sustainability (Oostindjer et al., 2017; Food                                  with some estimates that these now contribute over 60% of                                       served up in children’s schools. We found that:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             VE
For Life, 2021a). School food and meal programmes are                                       their calorie intake (Monteiro et al., 2019; NIHR, 2021)2.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 RY DAY
important for improving public health and nutrition; they are                               Diets high in ultra-processed foods (which are often low in                                     ● Encouragingly, over half (55%) of respondents said their school offered                                             55
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    %
able to reach children and young people across the socio-                                   fruit and veg) are increasingly associated with an elevated                                       vegetables every day. However, given that school food standards
economic spectrum at scale and for a sustained period of                                    risk of obesity, overweight and other diet-related health                                         recommend at least one portion a day (two in Scotland and NI), it is
time, during what is not only a critical window for nutrition                               conditions in later life (Elizabeth et al., 2020). Alongside                                      concerning that a third of respondents said their schools only ‘sometimes’
and optimal growth but also a time in which food preferences                                this, cases of anorexia nervosa are on the rise among pre-                                        offer veg, with 13% offering no veg at all.                                                                            YES
and habits with potential life-long implications for health and                             teens and given that some 66% of children aged under                                                                                                                                                                            ,S
development are shaped (Oostindjer et al., 2017). Early-                                    18 report feeling negatively or very negatively about their                                     ● More families reported that their schools offered fruit than veg, with 65%

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             OM
life experiences of different tastes have a role in promoting                               body image “most of the time”, there is clearly more work                                         saying fruit was available every day. This is perhaps unsurprising given
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  33

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 E TI M E S
healthy eating in future life (Scaglioni et al., 2018). With 94%                            to be done to ensure that schools are focused on health                                           fruit’s popularity and convenience as a snack but demonstrates that there
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    %
of all children across Britain attending state schools, school                              as much as weight. Food poverty is an important reason                                            are opportunities to give greater focus to veg.
meals have a significant impact on public health and nutrition                              why many children eat badly (Petkova et al., 2019; UK
(ICS, 2021).                                                                                Parliament, 2021). 1.7 million children are eligible for Free
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     NO

                                                                                                        School food and meal
                                                                                                        programmes are important for                                                                                                                                                                               13
                                                                                                 improving public health and                                                                                                                                                                                        %

                                                                                                 nutrition; they are able to reach
                                                                                                 children and young people across the
                                                                                                 socioeconomic spectrum at scale and
                                                                                                 for a sustained period of time. "

                                                                                            School Meals (FSM) in England alone in 2021, and an
                                                                                            estimated 2.5 million children experienced food insecurity
                                                                                            in the six months up until July 2021 (The Food Foundation,
                                                                                            2021c). Access to nutritious foods can be a challenge for
                                                                                            many: calorie for calorie, less healthy food is on average
                                                                                            three times cheaper than healthier food, such as vegetables
                                                                                            (The Food Foundation, 2021c), and 3% of children live
                                                                                            in households that cannot afford to buy fresh fruit and
                                                                                            vegetables every day – around 400,000 children across
                                                                                            the UK (Peas Please, 2020).

                                                                                            In light of the above, the outlook for children and young
                                                                                            peoples’ vegetable consumption in the UK is bleak. Almost
                                                                                            one third (29%) of children aged 5–10 years eat less than
                                                                                            one portion of veg a day. Consumption isn’t much higher
                                                                                            among teenagers either – with 23% of 11–16-year-olds
                                                                                            eating less than one portion of veg a day (Figures 5).
                                                                                            With the majority of children attending school for up to
                                                                                            eight hours a day the opportunities to increase vegetable
                                                                                            consumption through school food are significant.

2
  The widely used NOVA classification system groups foods based on their degree of processing, with group 4 comprised of foods and ingredients defined as ultra-processed – for   3
                                                                                                                                                                                      66% of respondents were based in England, 19% in Scotland, 4% in Northern Ireland and 2% in Wales.
example sweet, fatty or salty packaged snack products or highly processed dishes.

                                                                                        6                                                                                                                                                                                 7
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
1. LEARNING                                  3. IN THE             4. GROWING             5. FOOD           6. BEYOND THE
FEEDING OUR FUTURE                                                                                                          & WELLBEING        2. PROCUREMENT          DINING HALL               SCHEMES               WASTE            SCHOOL GATE

                                                                                                                         1. MAKING A MEAL OF
                                                                                                                         LEARNING AND WELLBEING
VEG CONSUMPTION ACROSS
THE UK BY AGE GROUP

                                                                                                                         E
                                                THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF VEG PORTIONS EATEN PER DAY
The Peas Please partnership has been            BY AGE ACROSS THE UK                                                           ach stage of the school day provides opportunities            more common among hungry children (Dimbleby and
tracking consumption of vegetables                                                                                             for food to support health, nutrition, behaviour and          Vincent, 2013; Forsey, 2017). Vegetables play a vital role
using National Diet and Nutrition               FIGURE 4                             2008–          2012–      2016–           educational attainment. Not eating well not only              in providing nutritional balance to any meal, ensuring
Survey (NDNS) data since launch.                                                      2012           2016       2019     impairs physical health and development, but behavioural,           school food not only fills children up but also supports
Children’s veg intake has remained                                                                                       emotional and academic challenges as well as truancy are            healthy diets.
fairly static over the past decade with           Secondary school age
                                                                                        1.7          1.6          1.7
consumption remaining low. Despite                (11–16 years)
many younger children going through                                                                                       MEAL            WHAT’S ON OFFER?
periods of picky eating as a normal               Primary school age
                                                                                        1.8          1.6          1.8                     Providing children with breakfast is crucial in ensuring they have a good start that provides them with
part of development, it is concerning             (5–10 years)
                                                                                                                                          enough energy to undertake the mental and physical demands of the school day. Children who regularly
to see that low vegetable consumption
                                                                                                                                          eat breakfast tend to have better nutritional profiles than children who habitually skip breakfast (Defeyter,
persists into adolescence. Just 6%             THE PROPORTION (%) OF CHILDREN EATING LESS THAN                                            Harvey-Golding and Forsey, 2020). They are more likely to meet daily recommendations for fruit and
of secondary school children are               ONE PORTION OF VEG A DAY
                                                                                                                                          vegetables and less likely to consume less healthy snack foods (Utter et al., 2007).
currently meeting the Government’s
                                                FIGURE 5
recommended daily intake of                                                          2008–          2012–       2016–
                                                                                                                           Breakfast      School breakfast provision can lead to children eating significantly higher amounts of healthy food
vegetables in the Eatwell Guide (3.5                                                  2012           2016        2019                     items at breakfast time than they would at home (Murphy et al., 2010).
portions) (Peas Please, 2021b).
                                                  Secondary school age
                                                                                       25%           26%         23%                      While there are limitations to many studies looking at the impact of breakfast consumption, research
                                                  (11–16 years)
                                                                                                                                          suggests that breakfast interventions in schools can positively impact on attention and memory cognitive
                                                  Primary school age                                                                      ability and overall academic performance (Wesnes, Pincock and Scholey, 2012; Adolphus, Lawton and Dye,
                                                                                       25%           33%         29%                      2013; Adolphus et al., 2016).
                                                  (5–10 years)

                                                THE PROPORTION (%) OF CHILDREN EATING LESS THAN                                           Snacking behaviour – particularly among secondary students – can impact on the uptake of school lunch
                                                3.5 PORTIONS OF VEG A DAY, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE                                          options and consumption of vegetables. Snacking students are more likely to skip meals, while regular meal
                                                EATWELL GUIDE                                                                             patterns are associated with healthier food choices (Calvert, Dempsey and Povey, 2020).
                                                FIGURE 6
                                                                                     2008–          2012–       2016–                     Limiting the availability of more processed, energy-dense snacks and providing vegetables as part
                                                                                      2012           2016        2019                     of a healthy snack, for instance with dips or as smoothies, is one way of increasing vegetable intake
                                                                                                                                          throughout the day while not impacting on school lunch uptake. Research undertaken in London
                                                  Secondary school age
                                                                                       95%           96%         94%                      showed that 60% of break-time snack options do not comply with school food standards and feature
                                                  (11–16 years)
                                                                                                                                          energy-dense items such as pizza, burgers, toasted sandwiches, sausage rolls, chicken nuggets,
                                                                                                                            Snacking      cookies and pastries (Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, 2020).
                                                  Primary school age                                                       vs sit-down
                                                                                       90%           94%         89%
                                                  (5–10 years)                                                                meals
                                                                                                                                          As many school children spend lunchtimes engaged in extra-curricular activities, or are just keen to get
                                                Sources: NDNS, years 1–4, 2008–2012; years 5–8, 2012–2016; years 9–11,                    outside the building, the amount of time available for lunch can be squeezed, leading to children skipping
                                                2016–2019
                                                                                                                                          lunch or grabbing ready-to-go items.

                                          *All averages are means and are weighted to adjust for
                                          differences in sample selection and non-response. For                                           There is a strong case to be made for schools to focus on provision of veg, fruit, and healthier snacks and
     We have referred                     our calculations we have used a portion size of 50g for                                         drinks during break times, for example mid-morning and early afternoon. Research in the Netherlands has
   to ‘school meals’ and                  primary school-aged children. This is the mid-point                                             shown that the free distribution of vegetables in schools increases consumption both overall and as a snack
 ‘school food’ throughout                 value of the 40–60g recommended for children                                                    (Reinaerts et al., 2008).
the report, which include                 aged 4–10 years old in the School Food Plan.

   all food served within                                                                                                                 The 2013 School Food Plan for England discussed the hidden benefits of food culture, where simply sitting
  the school environment                                                                                                                  down to meals with friends and teachers can help children to cement relationships and develop social skills
whatever the time of day.                                                                                                                 (Dimbleby and Vincent, 2013). This should be encouraged, with evidence suggesting that eating meals
    Where we are being                                                                                                       School       with others can lead to increased consumption of vegetables (Christian et al., 2013). On the whole
  specific we mention the                                                                                                    Lunch        school meals provide more nutritious options than packed lunches. In England less than 2% of children’s
         type of meal.                                                                                                                    packed lunches meet all eight of the food-based standards for school meals, but an estimated half of
                                                                                                                                          children are currently taking a packed lunch to school (Evans et al., 2020).

                                                                8                                                                                                                        9
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
1. LEARNING                                   3. IN THE              4. GROWING              5. FOOD           6. BEYOND THE
FEEDING OUR FUTURE                                                                                                                        & WELLBEING         2. PROCUREMENT          DINING HALL                SCHEMES                WASTE            SCHOOL GATE

NUTRITIOUS MEALS FOR EVERYONE?                                        to benefit most overall (Lund University, 2021). (See our case   Government, 2021). Additionally in Northern Ireland, the               A ‘WHOLE SCHOOL’ APPROACH
There is clearly a strong case to be made for providing all           study on SHEP for an example of an initiative targeting          Department of Education is responsible for monitoring the              While this report is focused on the provision of vegetables
children with a nutritious meal while at school in addition to        children from low income families.)                              nation’s wider Food in Schools policy, of which nutritional            in schools, the importance of incorporating food into all
ensuring that those from low income families can easily access                                                                         standards are a key element (DENI, 2013).                              aspects of the school day and the curriculum cannot be
school food and do so with dignity and without stigma. The                                                                                                                                                    overstated. As in many Nordic nations and Japan, a ‘whole
current income threshold for Free School Meals (FSM) is very          SETTING THE STANDARD                                             In 2019 Food for Life estimated that at least 60% of secondary         school’ approach ensures that food is seen as part and
low, with nearly half of food insecure families with children         However, beyond making sure children can access                  schools in England are failing to comply with school food              parcel of school education. In Scotland the 2008 ‘Schools
in England and Wales not qualifying for FSMs (CPAG, 2019;             school food, what about the quality of the food? School          standards (Food For Life, 2020). And a recent survey of                (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act’ made
Dimbleby, 2021). Children who have No Recourse to Public              food provision in the UK largely consists of hot cooked          60 schools in London found that while 73% of school lunch              promoting health in schools a statutory duty. This was further
Funds (NRPF) or are undocumented are also ineligible for              lunch options with starter and/or dessert on a three- or         menus reviewed were theoretically compliant with school                strengthened in 2014 with the Better Eating Better Learning
FSMs, regardless of how little their family earns. Although           four-week menu cycle. Especially in secondary schools            food standards, the food children were actually eating                 guidance on improving school food and food education.
temporary provision was granted to some NRPF children                 this is complemented by ‘grab-and-go’ options, such              tended to be dominated by oven-ready, less healthy options.            While there is still much more to do, this at least enshrines
in England and encouraged in Wales through Welsh                      as sandwiches and pizza, catering to young peoples’              As a result, it is likely that children are over consuming fat,        the commitment to improving the wellbeing of our children
Government guidance during the pandemic, no long-term                 preference for takeaway choices (Ensaff et al., 2015). While     salt and sugar but falling short when it comes to vegetables           and young people into law (Scottish Government, 2014a).
commitments have been provided, and Scotland’s commitment             different across the four nations, the introduction of school    and fibre at lunchtimes, with obvious ramifications for                England’s recent National Food Strategy endorses such an
to extend Universal Infant FSM provision to NRPF children             food standards for the nutritional content of school meals       nutrition (Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, 2020).                          approach which is an encouraging sign and something that
from 2021 and 2022 remains limited to primary-school-aged             has been an important step towards setting a baseline                                                                                   all nations should adopt.
children (Welsh Government, 2020b). Moreover, even those              amount of vegetables served in school lunches.
children eligible for the scheme frequently miss out. Parents                                                                                    The problem with school
have to know about the scheme and apply for it, with the
result being that around 11% of children entitled to FSMs are                                                                                    meals has been partly the
not registered for them according to a 2013 estimate by the              MIND THE BEANS!                                                   stigma thing, about who gets them                                           RECOMMENDATIONS:
Department of Education (Dimbleby, 2021).
                                                                         Pulses can be classified as both protein and                      and who doesn’t. But also, they’re
The case for FSMs across the board has been made many                    vegetable. Baked beans are often served as a                      not really all that great. They’re                                      ›    Implement Universal Free School Meals
times in recent years but in June this year a Swedish study              vegetable side dish, for instance with a baked                    super cheap. Maybe just putting a                                           across the UK to ensure all school children
proved there are long-term benefits that reach far beyond                potato. Their use as vegetable is limited across all                                                                                          are entitled to school food and remove
school years. The study tracked the progress of those                    regulations: for example, in Scotland, baked beans                bit more funding into that and                                              much of the stigma and access issues many
receiving Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) between                     can only count as one portion                                     making them that bit better could                                           children with low household income currently
1959 and 1969 to the present day. They found that students               of vegetables, if several                                                                                                                     encounter when accessing Free School Meals.
were not only healthier but that they were more likely to                options are on offer                                              really have a massive all-around                                            As a stepping-stone to this, Free School Meals
attend university and increase their lifetime income by 3%.              (Scottish Government,                                             sort of effect. And again, not put it                                       should be extended to all children living in
Unsurprisingly, those from poorer backgrounds were found                 2014b). In England, the                                           all on parents who are already                                              poverty across the four nations.
                                                                         school food standards
                                                                         advise not to serve                                               overburdened, especially single                                         › Ensure all four UK nations commit to
                                                                         baked beans more than                                             parents, to sort of come up with all                                      recommending at least two portions of veg
          Universal school meal                                          once a week and to                                                                                                                          in every meal, given the significant benefits
                                                                                                                                           the answers here. "
          provision can make a real                                      choose low-sugar and                                                                                                                        more vegetables have for both health and the
                                                                         low-salt varieties (Gov                                           PARENT DISCUSSING VALUE OF SCHOOL MEALS                                   environment.
    difference because if there was a                                    UK, 2020b).                                                       IN HELPING CHILDREN TO ACHIEVE 5-A-DAY
    commitment to making those meals                                                                                                                                                                               › Nations should undertake independent school
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     meal reviews to actively investigate and invest
    … really nutritious, really hitting                                                                                                                                                                              in opportunities to support schools in their
    these guidelines and getting the                                                                                                                                                                                 delivery of quality school meals, including
    kids to eat all these vegetables and                              In practice, however, school food standards are often                                                                                          holiday food provision schemes, which adhere
                                                                      poorly implemented with a lack of monitoring and                                                                                               to good school food standards.
    stuff day in, day out … if they’re                                accountability meaning that the onus very much falls on
    doing it every single day and that is                             individual schools and caterers to decide what should
                                                                      be on menus. Good practice can be seen in Scotland
    the standard and that’s what they                                 where Education Scotland’s Health and Nutrition Inspectors
    get used to, it’ll become a habit over                            routinely carry out inspections and ensure that school
    time. " PARENT                                                    food standards, as set out in their 2020 regulations on
                                                                      school food and drink, are being complied with (Scottish

                                                                 10                                                                                                                                      11
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
1. LEARNING                                  3. IN THE             4. GROWING              5. FOOD          6. BEYOND THE
FEEDING OUR FUTURE                                                                                                                    & WELLBEING        2. PROCUREMENT          DINING HALL               SCHEMES                WASTE           SCHOOL GATE

2. PROCUREMENT: PUTTING OUR                                                                                                                                                                                     RECOMMENDATIONS:

MONEY WHERE THEIR MOUTHS ARE                                                                                                                                                                                 › Strengthen and revise procurement standards
                                                                                                                                                                                                               so that taxpayer money is spent on sourcing
                                                                                                                                                                                                               healthy and sustainable food. These standards
                                                                                                                                                                                                               should be made mandatory for schools.
THE POWER OF PUBLIC PROCUREMENT                                    Government, 2011). Published in 2011 and currently              rather than a “cost” (APSE, 2021). For example, the
– FROM ‘VALUE FOR MONEY’ TO ‘VALUES                                being revised, this guidance also highlights how to use         concept of Community Wealth Building (CWB), where                         › Refocus procurement weighting systems
FOR MONEY’                                                         procurement legislation to specify fresh and seasonal           public purchasing is used to invest in local economies,                     to make sure that nutrition, welfare and
Public sector bodies spend an estimated £2.4 billion               produce, address quality and nutrition, buy food which will     is helping to shorten supply chains, create and secure                      environmental standards are assigned more
on procuring food and catering services annually, with             help to meet the Scottish Dietary Goals and consider how        jobs, and strengthen local communities (CLES, 2020).                        importance than cost alone in tendering
around £1 billion of this going towards the cost of food           food has been produced and processed. Similarly, the 2021       The application of CWB when procuring school food is                        decisions.
and ingredients (Parliament UK, 2021). This represents a           Wales Procurement Policy Statement puts the Well-being          one way of ensuring that money spent stays in the local
huge opportunity for schools, hospitals, prisons and other         of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 at the heart of all      area, supports local food producers, and provides positive                › Further fund and expand properly evaluated
institutional settings to use this budget to support public        procurement decisions and progressive policy priorities such    economic benefits for the places where the school are                       pilots into Dynamic Purchasing Systems to
health and serve more veg. With the proposed introduction          as decarbonisation, social value, community benefits, fair      sited. There are many local authorities in the UK which are                 encourage schools to purchase more fruit and
of Universal Free School Meals to primary-age children             work, the circular economy and the foundational economy         now adopting a CWB approach and according to East                           vegetables from smaller and/or more local
in Scotland from 2022, and with other nations weighing             (Welsh Government, 2021).                                       Ayrshire, the first CWB council in Scotland, not only has it                suppliers. If the 2022 pilot currently being run
up their options, attention must be paid to ensuring that                                                                          helped them improve the quality of school meals but buying                  by Bath and North East Somerset Council is
existing school food budgets are not simply spread more                                                                            fresh local produces has also generated a positive impact                   deemed a success this should be more widely
thinly, which would likely jeopardise food quality.                SHAKING UP PROCUREMENT PRACTICES                                on local businesses and significantly reduced their carbon                  rolled out.
                                                                   School food procurement is often centralised in the hands       footprint (Soil Association Scotland, 2020).
                                                                   of several large catering companies, limiting competition                                                                                 › Adopt a Community Wealth Building approach
IMPROVING STANDARDS TO SERVE                                       and innovation in the sector. Complicated procurement                                                                                       to procurement to ensure that public funds stay
GOOD FOOD                                                          processes pose barriers for smaller suppliers to be             ACCREDITATION                                                               within a locality and that local food producers
There is scope to improve and tighten compliance                   able to bid for school catering contracts and to compete        Accreditation of catering services and the food served                      are supported.
with procurement standards and put renewed focus                   on price.                                                       in schools is currently voluntary, with a number of
on vegetables. For example, England’s Government                                                                                   organisations providing a variety of training and                         › Adopt a ‘whole school’ approach to school
Buying Standards (GBS) currently only apply to central             Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) are one potential way          accreditation schemes. Many schools use the online                          food and education and require all schools to
Government, hospital food for patients, prisons and                of changing the status quo to allow smaller businesses to       professional standards and training developed by the                        work with accreditation schemes to improve
the armed forces. Local governments, schools and care              supply schools and provide institutions with more choice.       Local Authority Caterers’ Association or partake in the                     both school food and education.
homes need not follow the standards although schools               Unlike more traditional procurement methods, DPS means          Soil Association’s Food for Life certification scheme.
ought to comply with school food regulation and guidance           that a wide range of suppliers, regardless of size, are         However, these require investment from schools and                        › Ensure thorough monitoring and
(Dimbleby, 2021). The GBS currently recommend only                 allowed flexible access to a contract at any stage of its       are optional, so in no way universal.                                       implementation of school food standards,
one portion of veg as part of meals, a recommendation              duration providing they meet the standards set by contracting                                                                               including training of staff and setting of clear
which did not change even after a consultation in 2019 that        authorities. For instance, the Soil Association provides an     Requiring all schools to be part of a standard accreditation                performance indicators.
aimed to update the nutrition standards in the GBS. That           example of a seasonal carrot grower who under DPS would         scheme could have hugely beneficial impacts on the
said, the increased focus on fibre was encouraging, with           be able to sell their produce when available and not be         sourcing and provision of school food (see the Food for
an updated recommendation that main meals containing               penalised when they run out (Soil Association, 2020).           Life case study on page 14). As a minimum, for example,
beans or pulses as a main source of protein are made                                                                               schools could be required to account for how school food             much lower greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of
available at least once a week, with beans and pulses (up          A recent paper to Scottish Government on UFSM argued            funds have been spent, fully comply with the school food             produce than meat and dairy foods even when emissions
to 80g) counting as one portion of veg (DHSC, 2021). As            that public food should reflect the best of public values and   standards for nutrition and procurement standards and                from transportation are taken into account (Clune, Crossin
noted in England’s recent National Food Strategy there is          as such school meals should be seen as an “investment”          ensure their catering staff are adequately trained to deliver        and Verghese, 2017; Poore and Nemecek, 2018; Ritchie,
currently a loophole in the GBS that allows lower quality                                                                          quality meals.                                                       2020). If all public caterers moved to having even one
food to be supplied where necessary in order to avoid a                                                                                                                                                 meat-free day a week, this could reduce meat consumption
“significant increase in costs” (Dimbleby, 2021). There is                                                                                                                                              by 9,000 tonnes a year potentially saving over 200,000
therefore a need to refocus the weighting system to make                                                                           TOWARDS NET ZERO                                                     tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (Public Sector Catering,
sure that nutrition, welfare and environmental standards                                                                           As well as action from schools and Government, there is              2020). There are already some great examples of action in
are assigned more importance in tendering decisions.                                                                               also an opportunity for those providing school food to up            this arena, with eight school caterers committing to increase
                                                                                                                                   their game when it comes to the standard of food they serve          the amount of veg they serve as part of their commitment to
The Scottish Government and local authorities laid                                                                                 and source. With many caterers having committed to                   Peas Please. Furthermore, procuring in a way that favours
the foundations for a focus on procurement                                                                                         ambitious net zero and sustainability targets, changing              seasonal and locally sourced food produced in a way that
which prioritises local suppliers and                                                                                              menus so that they contain more veg, fewer ultra-                    promotes positive environmental and social benefits would
considers the social, economic and                                                                                                 processed options, and less and better meat is an                    ensure that public procurement plays its part in helping
environmental dimensions of sustainability                                                                                         obvious focus area for reducing the environmental                    to achieve the UK’s climate change commitments (see our
with Catering for Change (Scottish                                                                                                 impact of their supply chains. Vegetables and pulses have            case study by Sustain on page 20).

                                                              12                                                                                                                                   13
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
1. LEARNING                                                 3. IN THE         4. GROWING              5. FOOD           6. BEYOND THE
                                                                                                                                                                                                        & WELLBEING               2. PROCUREMENT                  DINING HALL           SCHEMES                WASTE            SCHOOL GATE

                                                 CASE STUDY
                                                 SOIL ASSOCIATION                                                                                                                                          3. IN THE
                                                                                                                                                                                                           DINING HALL
                                                 LOCAL AND SEASONAL VEGETABLES WITH FOOD FOR LIFE
                                                 SCOTLAND

                                 Food for Life Scotland is a             Highland Council who hold the          there are plans to arrange school
                                 Scottish Government funded               Bronze FFLSH award for their           visits to the farm at a future point
                                 programme which works with               primary school meals meet the          when it is safe to do so.
                                 local authorities across Scotland to
                                 improve the quality of school meals
                                                                          standards on seasonality and
                                                                          provenance by serving seasonal         EMPOWERING SCHOOL                                                                                                                                                                                      9%

                                                                                                                                                         PHOTO COURTESY OF FOOD FOR LIFE SCOTLAND
                                 through the certification scheme         vegetables every day on the side of    COOKS AND CATERING STAFF
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   buy lunch on the way
                                 Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH).       their main meals. By not stipulating   Food for Life Scotland provide                                                                                                                                                                     to school or visit a
                                 FFLSH rewards caterers who serve         what the side vegetable will be the    free seasonality training sessions                                                                                                                                                                     local shop/
                                 freshly prepared, sustainable and        caterers are able to work closely      for catering staff. The aim of                                                                                                                                                                          takeaway*

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   82%
                                 local food. Currently 17 of the 32       with their local supplier, Swansons,   these sessions is to use seasonal
                                 local authorities in Scotland hold the
                                 FFLSH award and are demonstrating
                                                                          to make best use of the vegetables
                                                                          available at different times of
                                                                                                                 vegetables to engage and inspire
                                                                                                                 school cooks who are often                                                                                                                                                                  4%
                                 best practice in promoting the
                                 enjoyment of locally sourced and
                                                                          year and expose the students to
                                                                          a broader range of produce. By
                                                                                                                 undervalued and the unsung heroes
                                                                                                                 of school food. The training involves
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             SKIP                 of those who eat in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               the school canteen less
                                 seasonal vegetables and as such          highlighting seasonality on the        cooking and eating seasonal                                                                                                                                                               LUNCH*              than four times a week
                                 are encouraging children to make         menu and displaying a provenance       vegetables together and discussing                                                                                                                                                                              have a packed lunch
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        instead*
                                 healthier food choices. Students         map illustrating where their produce   the themes of the FFLSH award.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    S
                                 in Food for Life schools are             has come from, Highland Council        These interactive sessions ensure                                                        etting standards for the procurement and serving of                        a battle of wills”, not only between
                                 twice as likely to eat 5-a-day and       caterers are helping to normalise      cooks in FFLSH schools understand                                                        vegetables is a crucial step towards increasing veg                        children and their parents, but also in the
                                 a third less likely to eat no fruit      the idea of eating fresh Scottish      and appreciate the importance of                                                         consumption in schools. But getting vegetables onto                        school food context (Veg Power, 2019). The introduction of
                                 and vegetables than students in          vegetables every day.                  good local produce and have the                                                    the plate is just one part of solving the problem: food-based                    the ‘Healthy Eating in Schools’ regulations in Wales in 2013,
                                 comparison schools (Jones et al.,                                               confidence to discuss this with                                                    standards do not automatically lead to students consuming                        for instance, was met with resistance as students perceived
                                 2015).                                   North Ayrshire Council who are         students in their schools.                                                         adequate portions of fruit and vegetables at lunchtime                           the guidelines to be “too healthy” and “overpowering”
                                                                          Gold FFLSH award holders source                                                                                           (Upton, Upton and Taylor, 2012). In South London                                 (Addis S and Murphy S, 2019). Younger children may
                                 MAKING THE BEST OF LOCAL                 salad leaves and vegetables for        Food for Life’s support of school                                                  secondary schools, where 73% of schools serve meals                              be reluctant to try foods which they are not familiar with
                                 PRODUCE                                  the schools on Arran from a local      cooks and advocacy for cooking                                                     compliant with school food standards, vegetables are often                       while older children may not choose them as a way of
                                 Food for Life Scotland promotes          community supported agriculture        from scratch with vegetables allows                                                the main item left on the plate or they go straight in the bin                   demonstrating autonomy (Belot, James and Nolen, 2016).
                                 local sourcing where possible and        project, Woodside Farm. The            caterers to utilise their skills.                                                  (Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, 2020).                                              Peer dynamics are particularly important among adolescents,
                                 FFLSH encourages seasonality.            farm also collects food waste from                                                                                                                                                                         and often the less healthy options are the socially acceptable
                                 Much of this work centres on             the school to use as compost,          Novena Miller, from West Lothian                                                                                                                                    choice (Calvert, Dempsey and Povey, 2020).
                                 vegetables given the ready               completing the circular model. The     described her experience of                                                        STUDENTS ARE A TOUGH CROWD
                                 availability of great locally grown      children know the vegetables have      working with Food for Life: “When                                                  The food choices of children and young people are shaped
                                 produce in much of Scotland.             come from just down the road and       I started as a cook all those years                                                not only by taste preferences but also by peer dynamics,                         VEG VISIBILITY AND CHOICE COMPETITION
                                                                                                                 ago, we were actually preparing                                                    food habits at home, the wider school food environment and                       IN THE SCHOOL FOOD ENVIRONMENT
                                                                                                                 all fresh vegetables, fresh fruit,                                                 social media (Baldwin, Freeman and Kelly, 2018; Addis S                          School canteens are often time-pressured environments
                                                                                                                 meat was all prepared, there                                                       and Murphy S, 2019; Calvert, Dempsey and Povey, 2020).                           where decision-making on what food to eat happens
                                                                                                                 were very little processed foods.                                                  As a ‘healthy choice’, vegetables often become “victims in                       quickly. The ‘choice architecture’ – the way meal
                                                                                                                 Over the years these things have                                                                                                                                    options are promoted and presented – has a significant
                                                                                                                 changed and as a society we                                                                                                                                         impact on students’ food choices and willingness to
                                                                                                                 are becoming more and more                                                                                                                                          consume vegetables. The way vegetables are prepared
                                                                                                                                                                                                               there’s no healthy options
PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON TAYLOR

                                                                                                                 dependent on processed foods.                                                                                                                                       and presented matters as much as the way in which
                                                                                                                 After being involved…with Food
                                                                                                                 for Life it actually gave you a
                                                                                                                                                                                                               at all, unless it’s school                                            meals are served and the combination of options on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     offer. Prominently positioning and promoting vegetables
                                                                                                                 bit of motivation and made you                                                          dinners, and nobody wants to                                                and vegetable-based meals in the school canteen can
                                                                                                                 rethink, to actually ask what was                                                       stay inside for school dinners. "                                           increase their uptake (Ensaff et al., 2015). Research among
                                                                                                                 I trained to do? I was actually                                                                                                                                     secondary students in England has shown that young
                                                                                                                 trained to produce good high                                                            STUDENT, SECONDARY SCHOOL                                                   people perceive less healthy choices to be more visible,
                                                                                                                 quality food.”                                                                          (YOUNG FOOD AMBASSADOR)                                                     prominent and accessible than healthier options (Calvert,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Dempsey and Povey, 2020).
                                                                                                                                                                                                    *Data from a 2021 Food Foundation UK YouGov poll, for those
                                                                                                                                                                                                    children who eat from the canteen less than four times per week
                                                                                           14                                                                                                                                                                                   15
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
1. LEARNING                                    3. IN THE                4. GROWING                   5. FOOD               6. BEYOND THE
FEEDING OUR FUTURE                                                                                                                      & WELLBEING         2. PROCUREMENT           DINING HALL                  SCHEMES                     WASTE                SCHOOL GATE

                                                                     just down to the caterers – it’s also about providing an                                                                                             LUNCH-BOXING CLEVER
          The school lunches do not                                  environment and opportunities in the dining hall for                                                                                              About half of the UK’s primary school students
                                                                     children and young people to experience and engage with                                                                                          bring a packed lunch to school (Evans et al.,
          look good in my daughter’s                                 different types of veg.                                                                                                                        2020). Despite the significant contribution of packed
    school. Children have to take the                                                                                                                                                                            lunches to children and young people’s dietary intakes,
                                                                     The fact that vegetables are the meal component most                                                                                     consistent evidence suggests that packed lunches are
    veg themselves, and if the veg are                               often rejected by students points to the importance of                                                                                   of poorer nutritional quality than school-made lunches
    plated, they seem not to be tasty. "                             incorporating them into dishes which students commonly                                                                                   (Stevens et al., 2013). Compared to school meals,
                                                                     enjoy, such as soups, sauces, stews and pies. A salad bar                                                                                packed lunches contain, on average, higher levels of
    PARENT AND PEAS PLEASE VEG ADVOCATE
                                                                     allows students to pick and choose the fresh vegetables         schools whose menus meet a range of health, welfare                      sugary foods and drink, savoury snacks high in fat
                                                                     they like and smoothies have been found to be a way of          and environmental criteria. In England the scheme criteria               and salt, and lower levels of fibre, protein, vegetables
                                                                     increasing the consumption of dark green vegetables             recommend two portions of veg are served with every meal.                and water. Two large cross-sectional surveys undertaken
                                                                     among young children (Micha et al., 2018; Guy’s & St                                                                                     in the UK found that between 2006 and 2016 very few
Serving vegetables alongside less healthy options which are          Thomas’ Charity, 2020).                                         Right across the UK there are excellent examples of good                 improvements were seen in the nutritional content of
high in fat, salt or sugar means children and young people                                                                           practice that highlight how school food could be delivered.              school lunch boxes. Vegetables were found to be the least
are likely to choose the latter at the expense of vegetable                                                                          For example, East Ayrshire schools hold a Gold FFLSH                     common foods included in packed lunches, with only 1
consumption (Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, 2020). Making               IMPROVEMENT IS POSSIBLE                                         award, providing high quality organic food sourced as locally            in 5 providing any veg or salad and just 10% containing
a choice between starter, soup or dessert will see most              Interventions in schools that specifically focus on             as possible. Menus are developed annually with parents and               vegetables outside of sandwich fillings, the most common
students choose the dessert. Organising the school meal              increasing fruit and veg consumption show modest but            school catering staff and designed to limit the amount of red            being cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce and carrots (Evans et
into separate courses and serving dessert after the main             consistently positive outcomes. A 2008 review found that        and red processed meat, increase fruit and veg, and reduce               al., 2020).
course, even incorporating veg into dessert recipes, can             70% of initiatives promoting fruit and veg in schools were      the intake of fat, sugar and salt. Menus rotate every three
                                                                                                                                     weeks with designated meat-free days and all students can                With less than 2% of food and soft drink advertising spend
                                                                                                                                     pre-order their meals either at the start of the day (primary) or        going towards promoting vegetables, it is perhaps no
                                                                                                                                     via an online ordering portal (secondary). The shift towards             surprise that veg does not feature prominently in lunch
        I think they probably do get too many bread products and it would be                                                         a more ‘customer’ focused approach, including alternative                boxes (Veg Power, 2019). Items which are marketed as
        nice if they could be a little more creative with some of their snacks,                                                      queuing and payment systems, has led to greater uptake in
    maybe get some more veggies in there " PARENT                                                                                    school meals (East Ayrshire Council, 2020). (For examples
                                                                                                                                     of how some organisations are working to change school
                                                                                                                                     food for the better, see our Autograph Education and
                                                                                                                                     TastEd case studies on pages 22 and 23.)
further increase the consumption of vegetables, as does              effective not just in increasing intake, but also in helping
removing the choice between one or the other (Zellner and            to change habits in the long-term (Sa and Lock, 2008).          In West Wales, Carmarthenshire County Council together
Cobuzzi, 2016; Obesity Action Scotland, 2020).                       However, the evidence suggests that improvements in intake      with local organisations (Carmarthenshire Public Service
Length of lunch breaks determines how long children                  following fruit and veg school interventions are often higher   Board and Carmarthenshire Food Network and Local
have to obtain and eat their lunch, with shorter sittings not        for fruit than for veg, with a 2018 review of 91 studies in     Business) are working on an experimental project with two
always giving children enough time to complete a meal                high income countries finding that targeting fruit and veg in   schools, in rural and town settings, to update school menus
(Bergman et al., 2004; Zandian et al., 2012). Moreover,              schools increased average consumption by 0.28 servings a        to better reflect their important societal role and impacts.
research suggests shorter lunch breaks can also result in            day, with a smaller impact on veg (0.04 servings) than for      The aim is to design new dishes that make healthier foods
poorer dietary choices, with easier to eat items such as             fruit (Evans et al., 2012; Micha et al., 2018).                 more accessible by increasing and diversifying the veg
‘mac ’n’ cheese’ being chosen as opposed to healthier                                                                                offer, reflecting seasonality and sourcing food locally. One
meals with separate components, such as vegetables                   It’s possible that we simply need better designed and more      of the schools is placing these menu changes within a
(Townsend, 2014).                                                    ‘whole school’ approaches in order to see larger uplifts        ‘whole school’ approach to learning about food and the
                                                                     in veg intake at school. For instance, a systematic review      food system. They are building an outdoor area to support
Encouraging children to eat veg in the dining hall through           of European school trials concluded that multicomponent         the teaching of different subjects, including growing and
‘choice architecture’ relies on the skills and dedication of         interventions that both increased the availability and          cooking.
catering teams to make innovative, visible choices, such             accessibility of fruit and veg in schools and included
as making vegetable-based recipes appealing and tasty                nutrition education initiatives such as taste testing and       Wherever possible children should be involved in the
(Upton, Upton and Taylor, 2012). Catering teams also need            cooking classes, were much more effective than either type      development of school food provision – from menu
to understand and see the benefits of dedicating time to             of intervention on their own (Cauwenberghe et al., 2010).       development to how the dining hall looks. Furthermore,
fostering healthy lunchtime behaviours and promoting                 The Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life’ scheme illustrates       combining educational components, parental and peer
vegetables; keeping a salad bar well stocked and tidy                the potential of such an approach well: the scheme works        engagement can all impact on students’ dietary behaviour
during busy lunch hours for instance, requires staff capacity        with schools to change food culture, encouraging children       and consumption of vegetables (Jones et al., 2012;                       Reeby shows off her lunch box. Her mum uses the labelled sections to
(Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, 2020). However, this isn’t              to participate in enrichment activities and certifying          Chaudhary, Sudzina and Mikkelsen, 2020).                                 help give Reeby the right portions of fruit, veg, protein, grains and dairy.

                                                                16                                                                                                                                       17
FEEDING OUR FUTURE An inVEGtigation into UK school food 2021 - An inVEGtigation into UK school ...
1. LEARNING                               3. IN THE        4. GROWING            5. FOOD           6. BEYOND THE
FEEDING OUR FUTURE                                                                                                                            & WELLBEING      2. PROCUREMENT         DINING HALL          SCHEMES              WASTE            SCHOOL GATE

‘lunch box’ compatible (crisps, cheese straws, sweets and            as children might reject them and both the money and food
sugary drinks) may appear to be the convenient choice                end up being wasted (Veg Power, 2019).                                        RECOMMENDATIONS:
for parents, albeit a less healthy one. Furthermore, the
preparation of healthy packed lunches requires both                  Moving away from the reliance on packed lunches and
time and money, which many families on lower incomes                 towards increasing student uptake of nutritious school                    › Build food into all aspects of school life,
cannot afford. Many parents face further challenges given            meals is the most promising way of increasing children’s                    both in the classroom and in the dining hall,
that healthy foods including fresh vegetables are often              vegetable consumption while taking the pressure off parents.                so that meals times are not just seen as an
unavailable in the shops in their vicinity or beyond their           Nevertheless, engagement on healthy lunch box contents                      inconvenient break between lessons.
budget (Lasko-Skinner, 2020). Alongside that, vegetables             with parents is crucial to close the quality gap between
can be seen as a ‘risky’ purchase for those on tight budgets,        school lunches and packed lunches.                                        › Ensure adequate time for children to eat
                                                                                                                                                 within a comfortable and welcoming dining
                                                                                                                                                 environment.
                                                   The packed lunch provided by the catering
                                                   company may mean up to five times a week                                                    › Involve children, young people, parents and
                                                                                                                                                 catering staff in developing school food
                                             having ham (processed meat), bag of crisps, fruit                                                   provision to instil ownership and normalise
                                             juice, cake/biscuit – how balanced is it? " PARENT                                                  healthier choices. Design and test school
                                                                                                                                                 food menus and better eating environments
                                                                                                                                                 for schools with input from young people that
                                              FIGURE 7                                                                                           align with school food standards. Adopting
                                              DO YOU EAT VEG WHEN YOU HAVE LUNCH AT SCHOOL?                                                      a more ‘customer’ focus to delivery will also
                                                                                                                                                 increase uptake of school food.
                                                35
EAT YOUR GREENS?                                30                                                                                             › Incentivise and support caterers to prepare,
As part of our small school food                                                                                                                 promote, and serve tasty and appealing
questionnaire (see Box 1 on page                25                                                                                               vegetables and vegetable-based dishes in
7), we also asked survey respondents            20
                                                          Yes, I
                                                         usually                                                                                 the school canteen through skills training and             THE VEG ADVOCATE VIEW FROM THE
whether they actually ate the veg they                  have veg                                                                                 professional development.                                  GROUND
                                            %

were served at school. The results              15    in my lunch                                                                                                                                           There are 180 Peas Please ‘Veg Advocates’ across the
                                                        from the            No           I sometimes
were illuminating. Just over a quarter          10       school                          have veg in
                                                                                                          Yes, I usually                       › Limit break-time snack options to more                     UK. Veg Advocates are food activists working in their
                                                                                                           have veg in          I sometimes
of respondents (26%) said they                          canteen                         my lunch from
                                                                                                           my packed            have veg in      healthy options, such as vegetable dips                    communities to challenge the food system, supporting
didn’t eat veg when they had their              5                                         the school                             my packed       and smoothies, to increase both vegetable                  Peas Please in the national cause of improving diets
                                                                                                              lunch
                                                                                            canteen                                 lunch
lunch at school – a concerningly                0                                                                                                consumption and lunch uptake.                              through changing food environments. During the
high number. When we asked why                                                           (Responses)                                                                                                        last 6 months we asked our Veg Advocate parents
this group didn’t eat veg for lunch at                                                                                                         ›   Actively encourage parents to include                                                       to encourage
school, almost 40% said because it                                                                                                                 vegetables in packed lunches.                                                               their children to
                                              FIGURE 8
wasn’t appealing to them, followed                                                                                                                                                                                                              keep school food
by a third who said they simply hated         IF YOU DON'T EAT VEG FOR LUNCH AT SCHOOL, TELL US WHY NOT?                                       › Expand and adequately fund the provision of                                                    diaries, the results
veg, and 30% who said the veg                                                                                                                    schemes to provide free and high-quality fruit                                                 of which have
offered wasn’t the type they liked.                      Overcooked                                                                              and veg in schools. Review England’s School                                                    informed some of
                                                                                                                                                 Fruit and Veg scheme and identify further                                                      this report. Here
Changing children and teenagers’                     No veg on offer                                                                             opportunities for improvement.                                                                  are some pictures
attitudes towards veg is therefore                                                                                                                                                                                                               of school food
crucial, with plenty of opportunities for                Poor quality                                                                                                                                                                            drawn by their
school and caterers to up their game                                                                                                                                                                                                             children from
when it comes to serving tasty and            Not offering veg I like                                                                                                                                                                            during this time,
appealing veg. The veg offered was                                                                                                                                                                                                                which do not
said to be poor quality by 18%, with a                    I hate veg!                                                                                                                                                                             show much veg
further 5% saying it was overcooked                                                                                                                                                                                                               on the plate.
– both things that could be remedied                  Not appealing
were a new focus placed on                                              0    5     10      15      20     25     30        35     40     45
procurement standards and investment
                                                                                                (% of respondents)
in catering skills.

                                                                18                                                                                                                                  19
CASE STUDY                                                                                                                  CASE STUDY
                 SUSTAIN                                                                                                                     TastEd
                 EAT WELL TO LEARN WELL, THE IMPORTANCE OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES                                                              “I TRIED THE RADISH AND IT WAS SUPER SPICY...BUT I SURVIVED!”
                 IN SCHOOLS

                                                                                                                             Many children cannot name basic                                               for the first time shouted to his
                                                                                                                             fruits and vegetables, never mind                                             friends, “I tried the radish and it
                                                                                                                             enjoy eating them. “I’ve never felt                                           was super spicy … But I survived!”
                                                                                                                             an onion before”, said one five
                                                                                                                             year-old child in a recent TastEd                                             Our long-term aim is for TastEd
                                                                                                                             lesson. A child who has never                                                 to become a basic part of every
                                                                                                                             tasted a fresh tomato might believe                                           child’s education in the UK, just
                                                                                                                             that he or she doesn’t like them.                                             as it is in Finland. Our scheme
                                                                                                                             But not every child gets the chance    TastEd’s golden rules of “no one       of work, including online teacher
                                                                                                                             to taste fresh vegetables and fruits   has to try” and “no one has to like”   training and over 100 lesson
                                                                                                                             at home. TastEd – based on the         frees children from the pressure of    plans covering early years to Year
                                                                                                                             tried and tested SAPERE method         eating things they may be scared of.   6 – aligned with the English
                                                                                                                             from France and Scandinavia – is       Children feel proud of themselves      primary curriculum on cooking and
                                                                                                                             simple sensory food education          for trying new foods with any of       nutrition – is now fully funded for
                                                                                                                             lessons aimed at giving all children   their senses (even licking counts).    all schools. Find out more at
                                                                                                                             the opportunity to try and enjoy       One Year 2 boy who tried a radish       www.tasteeducation.com
                                                                                                                             vegetables, using all five senses.

Veg Cities is a campaign of                                                        tackling historical low levels of fruit   TastEd provides fun and practical
Sustainable Food Places, led by                                                    and vegetable consumption. For            food education lessons for
food and farming charity Sustain                                                   a start, it only reaches children in      primary school teachers, although
in partnership with the wider Peas                                                 Key Stage 1 in England. There is          lessons have been delivered by
Please initiative.                                                                 no comparable scheme in Wales             caterers, sports coordinators and
                                                                                   or Northern Ireland, although in          SEN teachers too. Children at
The importance of school food for                                                  Scotland some local authorities           Washingborough Academy in
academic attainment and healthier           and vegetables that they might not     fund fruit in schools. It also fails to   Lincolnshire listened to the sound
diets, particularly for disadvantaged       have tried otherwise, and increased    link up with wider environmental or       of eating tomatoes and discovered
students, has received a much               knowledge about healthy eating,        economic development objectives           they sounded “like a squidgy
needed boost over the last year             particularly among children from       – only 30–40% of the produce              silence”. These sensory activities
and a half, thanks to campaigning           deprived areas. For some children,     is British. The scheme needs to           build familiarity and confidence
by the End Child Food Poverty               it’s the only portion of fruit or      be changed to integrate other             around trying vegetables.
coalition of civil society organisations,   vegetable they will have all day.      interventions to support consumption
spearheaded by Marcus Rashford.                                                    and should be extended to cover           Feedback from teachers suggests
A less well-known school food               Despite all its benefits, the scheme   older children in order to deliver        the empowering atmosphere of
intervention is the School Fruit and        is some way off when it comes to       long-lasting impact and sustained         TastEd lessons enables children to
Vegetable Scheme, which offers                                                     levels of fruit and vegetable             get past their resistance to trying
2.3 million children aged 5 to 7                                                   consumption. Sustain have always          vegetables – even children on
attending state-funded primary                                                     advocated for a bigger and better         the autistic spectrum who have
schools in England one portion of                The scheme needs to               fruit and vegetable scheme so it          previously found trying new foods
fruit or vegetable each school day.            be changed to integrate             reaches more children and increases       very hard. At Prendergast Primary
The scheme has shown clear benefits.             other interventions to            the proportion of British seasonal        in London, one Reception child
Government evaluations in 2004,                  support consumption               fruit and vegetables used and             who loudly stated before a TastEd
2006, 2008 and 2010 concluded                  and should be extended              support the National Food Strategy’s      lesson that he hated cauliflower,
that it increased consumption,                  to cover older children            recent recommendations to expand          surprised himself by enjoying raw,
encouraged children to try new fruit                                               and develop the scheme.                   boiled and roasted cauliflower!

                                                             20                                                                                                                     21
You can also read