For school meals to succeed food culture must involve the whole school, connecting cooking, growing and farm visits.
Jeanette Orrey, FFLP school meals policy advisor,
author and school cook
Transforming food culture
Transforming food culture is caring about the food we eat, connecting people with where it comes from and giving them the skills to grow and cook it for themselves.
Why does it matter?
The signs that we have stopped caring are everywhere – the rise in obesity and diet-related illnesses, the impact of intensive farming on animal welfare and the environment, and the loss of life skills we need to cook and grow our own food and be in control of what we eat. Food should be one of life's positive and enjoyable experiences. What better lesson is there than to sow a seed, nurture it as it grows, harvest and cook with the produce and then sit down to eat and share with friends?
Schools are in a unique position to help children and young people understand and enjoy good food and develop practical life skills. What schools teach about food – the food they serve at break and lunchtime, the messages children hear about food – helps create a school's food culture.
These messages are much wider than what makes a good diet but include developing life skills like cooking and learning about the environment and animal welfare. In schools we not only help create the consumers of the future, but we help create young people's expectations about good food and support the development of the skills and healthy behaviours they need as they grow up to be successful.
The Food for Life Partnership challenges a growing culture where people are distanced from food production and settle for low-grade, nutritionally poor food whilst being unaware of the food choice they can and could be making that might benefit themselves and the planet.
The British Medical Association predicts that by 2020 over one quarter of children will be obese and that children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Over 30% of our climate change impact as consumers comes from the food we eat. Over reliance on convenience food is also eroding our food culture. More than half of meals are now eaten alone. To tackle these problems we need to do more than target young people with messages about health and sustainability. We need to make food a priority in schools, homes and communities and develop practical food skills across generations. We need to inspire and educate young people to eat healthily by giving them an opportunity to understand the issues, evaluate their choices, know how food is produced and to experience growing and cooking at first hand.
Every school has its own distinctive culture and the Food for Life Partnership programme and award scheme helps schools explore their own culture around food, ensuring that it is one where pupils are able to develop the life skills they need to make healthy and sustainable food choices in their future. By supporting the development of practical food education, such as growing, cooking and farm visits, the programme has other benefits such as developing pupil voice, life skills and knowledge about food and food ethics.
Food has the power to unite communities, and so at the heart of our programme is a desire to create a meaningful partnership between schools, their kitchens and the wider community so that good food becomes a reality for all.
Food is key to developing a happy and successful child – without good food how can they learn?
Jenny Cooper, teacher
Four Dwellings High School, Birmingham
Find out about how transforming food culture can benefit your school. Learn about the awards scheme, link your work with national initiatives and read case studies from schools in your region. This booklet covers everything you’ll need to ensure the Food for Life Partnership works in your school.