When Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent were asked by the Government to lead a review of school food, they agreed on one condition: that they could publish an actual “plan”, with agreed actions, budgets, timescales and named people responsible for the plan’s implementation.
A plan of agreed actions to improve the health, wellbeing and attainment of children, better prepared for adult life and capable of cooking for themselves and their families.
Since publication of the Plan, the Government and many other organisations – national and local, big and small have come together and done an amazing job delivering the agreed actions in the School Food Plan. Massive steps have been made towards achieving the plan’s shared vision for “flavourful fresh food served by friendly, fulfilled cooks in financially sound kitchens”.
Over the last year we have seen three of the most significant proposed changes being actioned:
- cooking lessons are now a compulsory part of the National Curriculum for all 5-14 year olds,
- new school food standards and guidance lay out what food can be served in schools, and
- every child in the first three years of school is now entitled to a free school lunch
Recent DfE figures show that 85.5%  of all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are now taking up the offer of a free school meal. This represents most of the infant school population, and is a huge opportunity for early intervention to help influence the way every child eats for life.
The benefits for Britain go way beyond the health and wellbeing of the next generation. The School Food Plan has seen thousands of new people find careers in school catering and put millions into British food and farming,
But the hard work doesn’t stop now – there is still much to do to change the diets and food habits of the next generation. As child obesity continues to cause concern and alarm, addressing what children eat in school and how they learn about food is a vital component in addressing one of society’s greatest challenges. The aim of universal free school meals. The government just needs to be persuaded that they would see a return on the £1bn or so annual costs. In time, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Myles Bremner, Director of School Food Plan, is rightly proud of what’s been achieved to date and says there are a number of great examples of schools working with local restaurants – whether running cookery classes, offering advice to the school’s caterers or even providing the meals themselves – as is the case with SRA Member Battlesteads.
Myles adds that there are still huge opportunities for hospitality businesses to develop ties with their local schools to help effect a generational change, and, in the first instance, they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss ways in which they can play their part.
Myles said: “The changes implemented to date are a massive step forward. We should celebrate what has been achieved so far, and look forward together to the future. The School Food Plan now brings together all schools and organisations helping those schools to continue on the journey to ensure our children’s future health and happiness.
“Henry and John laid the foundations for a real game change in terms of the health of our nation and they are very worthy recipients of their honours.”
 Department for Education School census data – 06/15