PRIMARY SCHOOL children in the north of England and the Midlands are more likely to be eating sustainable seafood than those in the south of the country, according to a new report recently published by The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
For its first "end of year report”, which assessed how well-prepared primary schools across England are for the School Food Standards, the MSC took data from its Chain of Custody programme - the only global standard that ensures sustainable seafood is traceable from ocean to plate.
The report found that there were dramatic differences in regional trends across England’s 156 local education authorities with the best regions receiving an A* grade and the worst with a D.
Of the 2,416 state-funded primary schools that serve certified sustainable fish in their canteens, 1,465 schools are in the north of England and the Midlands, while the combined figure for the south-west, south-east and London is only 951.
The Midlands come out on top as a region and Solihull was awarded an A* grade, while Birmingham and Coventry were each awarded an A. In the north, Bolton, Cheshire East & West, Durham, Oldham, Stockport and Tameside were graded at A, bringing the regional grade to an A, despite Yorkshire being entirely unrepresented.
In the south-east, Brighton & Hove was graded A*, meanwhile, the south-west only reached a D grade because of very low representation.
Although only 14% of England’s 16,784 state-funded primary schools currently provide a choice of certified sustainable fish in canteens, that already equates to an estimated 640,000 of the 4.3mil state primary school children in England.
Toby Middleton, UK senior country manager said, "We applaud all the hard work that the A-grade LEAs have been awarded for this first report. But 70% of England’s LEAs are missing an opportunity to celebrate marine sustainability.
"We encourage more LEAs to take up government guidelines and join the growing community of MSC-certified schools. We hope that by the time we run these numbers again, more LEAs will make the grade. In the meantime, we can help those with low grades do better and for those not even on the map this year, we can help them show up for the exam.
"If England’s 4.3m primary school children can help safeguard fish stocks for their own generation and the ones that follow, we are off to a good start in transforming the supply of seafood to a sustainable basis and recognising the efforts of pioneer fisheries that make a difference on the water."
Schools in England currently spend an estimated £43m on fish each year, according to campaigners at Sustainable Fish City who pushed for sustainable fish to become part of the Government Buying Standards introduced in 2011.
From January 2015, new School Food Standards will become mandatory and contain recommendations that schools "choose fish from verifiably sustainable sources and ideally MSC".
Click here to download the Sustainable fish schools report.