Food for Life Partnership gives full backing to Jamie's School Food Manifesto

25 October 2011 – The Food for Life Partnership welcomes Jamie Oliver's action plan for saving school meals and calls on this Government to back his proposals as a central plank of their fight to close the health and education gap for the most disadvantaged children. Bad eating at home and at school is part of the vicious cycle of disadvantage that stops so many children from fulfilling their potential. A healthy school meal and the chance to cook, grow and start eating fresh fruit and veg is not a nice-to-have. It's about getting the basics right.

Much has been achieved since Jamie's 2005 School Dinners campaign brought the shocking state of school meals to light and ushered in new nutritional standards. Jamie's new School Kitchen Garden programme has the potential to pull in much-needed resources for better cooking and growing facilities in primary schools. The Food for Life Partnership now works with over 4,000 schools to give them the framework, training and direct support they need to adopt a whole school approach to healthy food, and we welcome Jamie's call for our work to be safeguarded beyond our first five years of Lottery funding which ends in December.

"I want the Department for Education to continue to fund the Food for Life Partnership programme, but perhaps on a smaller transitional scale so that the support for those 4000 schools and caterers involved in the programme is not lost and they can continue their work to a sustainable point."
Jamie's Manifesto (Part II), Recommendations to the Government, 25 October 2011

But this Government cannot afford to be complacent. The job is far from done and the threats to the school food revolution are real. Only 44% of primary school pupils and 38% of secondary pupils are eating healthy school lunches. A fifth of children entitled to free school meals still aren't eating them. Because meal take-up is so low, fixed overheads mean that school meal prices for most parents are too high and getting higher.

Only decisive action to increase the take-up of healthy school meals will bring meal prices down for all and end the need for Government subsidy. We call on the Government to remain open-minded about Jamie's proposal, joint with the Food for Life Partnership, to introduce a School Food Premium that would give headteachers the incentive they need to improve their dining rooms and offer the practical food education that gives pupils a reason to eat healthy meals. As Jamie's manifesto explains, far from de-motivating schools with the greatest meal take-up challenge, such a scheme would offer them the greatest rewards. Meal prices would come down, making healthy school meals the norm for all and closing the gap for the disadvantaged children that need them most. Payment-by-results is the key to solving the school meal crisis once and for all.

The benefits will be felt by those that need them most. An independent evaluation of the Food for Life Partnership's work showed that the problem of disadvantaged pupils not taking up their free school meals virtually disappeared over two years in FFLP schools. Five-a-day consumption went up 28%, and it went up most for pupils involved in the cooking, growing and farm links activity.

The Department of Health has issued a call to action on obesity, and the Department for Education has recognised the value of school meals to those that need them most. Jamie Oliver's action plan for school food is modest in its funding requests and firmly anchored in the evidence from our five years of working with thousands of schools on the ground. Now is the time for the Government to build on its rhetoric and back these concrete plans for action.

Read Jamie's Manifesto (Part II), Recommendations to the Government, 25 October 2011

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The Food for Life Partnership is a network of schools and communities across England committed to transforming food culture. Together we are revolutionising school meals, reconnecting children and young people with where their food comes from, and inspiring families to grow and cook food.

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