We've been commended in the National Food Strategy. Read our latest update here.

Exciting Reforms to School Food: Levelling Up White Paper

School food reform

Yesterday’s Levelling Up White Paper has presented a number of exciting reforms to school food policy, including a commitment to ensure school food standards are being met.

This represents a big step forward and comes after relentless campaigning, including a recent letter from over 600 school leaders and headteachers to the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi. We’re proud to work alongside School Food Matters, BiteBack 2030, and The Food Foundation in calling for better school food.

For many children, a school lunch can be their only substantial meal of the day. Therefore, it is vital that schools are serving healthy, nutritious food. While some schools and caterers are going above and beyond, an estimated 60% of secondary schools might not be compliant with the School Food Standards

The Levelling Up White Paper addresses this problem with the following reforms:

  1. Schools will be encouraged to publish statements on the arrangements for their ‘whole school approach’ to school food. This will become mandatory when ‘schools can do this effectively’.
  2. The Department for Education (DfE) will be working with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to pilot measures with local authorities to ensure greater compliance with the school food standards.
  3. Training and support, worth £200,000, will be provided for school governors on the role they should take to support a whole school approach to food.
  4. Funding of £5 million to support food teachers so that every child can leave school knowing how to cook six recipes.

Read the full Government document here.

Food for Life Policy Officer, Laura Chan shares her response:

“It’s fantastic to see a commitment to ensure that school food standards are being met in all schools. To date, Food for Life has been the only verifier of compliance with the school food standards. This is a great step forward and we wholly support a mandatory approach to school food standards compliance to ensure that all school meals are healthy and nutritionally balanced.”

Valuing the Whole School Approach

The Levelling Up White Paper recognises the importance of a whole school approach to food, whereby a healthy food culture is embedded within the curriculum, canteen and wider community.

This means that schools will be encouraged to promote how they are working on a whole school approach. For example, teaching children to cook so they can develop good food habits beyond the classroom.

It’s great to hear that the government will be providing additional funding to support this and look to make this a mandatory requirement in the future. This will support positive change in our food system by creating a better food culture in schools, as well empowering children with healthy food habits. Food for Life schools are ahead of the curve in applying a whole school approach to food, as this is an important part of our criteria.

Taking it a step further…

While it is great news that the government are implementing plans to help improve school food, we would like to encourage further changes in school food policy. This includes:

  • Further support of a whole school approach, for example, building stronger connections to food such as through growing and facilitating farm visits.
  • Recognition of food quality in public sector procurement - the Levelling Up paper does not talk about the quality of food served. This means that even if food meets the school food standards it's not necessarily fresh, locally sourced or tasty.  
  • Stronger emphasis on localised supply chains, championing British seasonal produce and freshly prepared food which can support the UK agricultural system and ensuring highest nutrient quality.

We are looking to DfE’s Sustainability strategy and the National Food Strategy White Paper to fill these gaps.

How Food for Life can support schools to improve food

Our mission is to ensure healthy, tasty and sustainable food is on the menu for every child as standard.

That’s why Food for Life supports schools in meeting school food standards and embedding a whole school approach to food. Having a Food for Life accreditation or award is a great way to demonstrate that your school is doing fantastic work to provide healthy school meals, great lunchtimes and food education that has a positive impact on both pupils and the wider community.

In fact, we’ve been praised throughout the National Food Strategy, which recommended that the ‘Government should require all schools to work with accreditation schemes such as Food for Life to improve school food and food education.’ Over 2 million meals are served each day to Food for Life standards – you can read about our impact here.

Interested in demonstrating your fantastic work to meet school food standards?

Get in touch with Gay Darke about registering your school: gdarke@soilassociation.org