An unhealthy food environment at secondary schools is compromising pupils’ ability to make good food choices, according to a new report.
The AKO Foundation together with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation has called for schools to be designated ‘healthy food zones’ after the results of the first comprehensive review of food education in English schools uncovered a stark difference between schools doing a good job at delivering strong food education and others struggling with a lack of time, resource and support.
Cooking and Nutrition was introduced into the English national curriculum for all 5-14 year olds in 2014, but no study or evaluation has since taken place on how it is being delivered.
The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation decided to undertake a review to find out how much food education is going on in schools, and how effective it is in helping children develop key food skills and a healthy attitude towards food.
It found that although new national curriculum guidelines are broadly being implemented, there is great variation between schools in the quantity, content and quality of food education.
It also concluded that pupils in many schools, particularly secondary schools, find it difficult to make healthy choices due to poor school food environments.
The report makes four key recommendations to ensure young people are receiving the appropriate food education: schools should be designated healthy food zones; more support should be given to the school workforce; improvements in food education qualifications and resources are needed; and stronger reporting and evaluation needs to be in place.
“This major report has studied all the data,” said Jamie Oliver. “We’ve spoken to everyone, from headteachers, to food teachers, parents, school governors, and kids themselves. And we’ve proven the simple point that we need to help kids apply food knowledge in the real world, and we need to support our dedicated food teachers. We must stop giving our kids contradictory messages. Most of all, if we want healthy children, we need to make all schools healthy zones.”