EDUCATION SECRETARY Michael Gove has announced new regulations for school food will be introduced from January 2015.
The new set of standards include at least one portion of vegetables a day, no more than two portions of fried food a week and only two portions of food which include pastry per week.
The government said the new standards have been designed to promote healthy eating and make it easier for school cooks to create imaginative, nutritious menus. They will be mandatory for all local authority schools, new free schools and new academies.
Although the previous standards, introduced between 2006 and 2009, improved school food, the government found they were complicated and expensive to enforce. Cooks had to use a special computer program to analyse the nutritional content of every menu. Often, they ended up following 3-week menu plans sent out by centralised catering teams who would do the analysis for them meaning they could not be as flexible or as creative as they would like.
In trials, the new standards proved extremely popular with 90% of school cooks stating they were easier to implement than the old standards. They also proved just as effective at delivering the energy and nutrients that growing children need such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and fibre.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Every mum and dad knows that if you want your child to do well at school, and particularly to concentrate well in the classroom in the afternoon, a healthy meal at lunchtime is vital.
“If you speak to heads, teachers and cooks about the school meals they provide, they want to be given a little bit more freedom to make their own choices.
“The revised school food standards will allow schools to be more creative in their menus. They are easier for schools to understand and crucially they will continue to restrict unhealthy foods to ensure our children eat well.”
The new standards include:
- 1 or more portions of vegetables or salad as an accompaniment every day
- at least 3 different fruits, and 3 different vegetables each week
- an emphasis on wholegrain foods in place of refined carbohydrates
- an emphasis on making water the drink of choice:
- limiting fruit juice portions to 150mls
- restricting the amount of added sugars or honey in other drinks to 5%
- no more than 2 portions a week of food that has been deep fried, batter coated, or breadcrumb coated
- no more than 2 portions of food which include pastry each week
Education Secretary Michael Gove added: “These new food standards will ensure all children are able to eat healthy, nutritious meals at school.
“We now have a clear and concise set of food standards which are easier for cooks to follow and less expensive to enforce. Crucially we have achieved this without any compromise on quality or nutrition.
“There has been a great deal of progress in providing healthy school meals in recent years and these new standards will help deliver further improvements.”
Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health, University of Oxford commented: “We know that children are continuing to eat too much saturated fat, sugar and salt. It is vital that the food children are offered in schools is nutritious and helps them to learn about the basics of a healthy diet.
“The pilots we ran were very encouraging and clearly enabled cooks to develop nutritionally balanced menus. We saw a real boost in the variety of vegetables offered, helping to increase intakes of fibre and essential nutrients.
“The new standards and supporting guidance include clear information on appropriate portion sizes to help achieve similar results and promote good practice across all schools.”