It’s official – school meals really are rubbish

Secondary schools canteens are serving high fat, high salt and
high sugar foods to children which don’t meet national
nutritional standards, according to a new government report.

Pupils themselves are choosing high fat and sweet foods over
healthier options, says the survey of  79 maintained secondary
schools by the Food Standards Agency and Department for Education
and Skills.

Most schools used outside contractors to provide food to pupils,
and the foods on offer do not generally offer a balanced diet. None
of the set meals offered by the schools met nutritional standards,
and foods offered most often were cakes.

Pupils eating meals from secondary school canteens were most
likely to chose high fat main dishes such as burgers with fried
chips or other fried potato products, and soft drinks. The least
popular choices were fruit, fruit juice, and vegetables and salads.
As a result more than 40 per cent of total energy was derived from

More than half the pupils spent less than £1.50 on their
lunch, and those spending less than £1.50 were more likely to
buy chips.

The report recommends compulsory national nutritional standards
for school food.

It also says pupil choices should be restricted to healthier
foods, and lunches “as chosen” must conform to the
“balance of good health” standard.

Schools should have written documentation on the nutritional
quality of school lunches which are “specific, quantitative,
measurable and time-bound” and these standards must be

Head cooks and catering managers must have training in healthy
catering and resources to support this should be provided by the

The report also recommends that the DfES sets up a committee to
develop a new set of compulsory nutritional standards for school

In a separate report Ofsted and the Food Standards Agency found
there was no effective food and nutrition education in most primary
schools. As a result children’s knowledge of food and
nutrition was generally poor and what they learned had very little
impact on what they chose to eat and drink.

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