Food Standards Agency to examine school food across the UK as Government responds to the National Food Strategy
The Department for Education and the Food Standards Agency will work together to ensure food standards at state schools in England meet the recommendations outlined in the National Food Strategy (NFS).
The local authorities taking part in the pilot project include Nottingham City Council, Blackpool Council, Plymouth City Council and Licolnshire County Council.
From September 2022, selected schools in these areas will be asked to share a transparent statement on their websites about the food they provide to students. If this is completed successfully, the Government intends to make it obligatory for schools across England long-term.
These details were laid out in a ‘Levelling Up’ white paper, published on 2 February 2022.
The founder of the Leon restaurant chain, Henry Dimbleby, was tasked to draw up recommendations for the National Food Strategy last summer. His guidelines are being reviewed by the Government, who intends to introduce an Eat and Learn initiative. In the white paper, Westminster has also expressed intention to invest up to £5M to bring cooking classes back into the education system. These classes will aim to get young people leaving education knowing how to cook six basic, healthy recipes.
Another NFS recommendation the Government wants to bring to fruition is the Community Eatwell programme, a three year pilot project inspired by other similar successful projects launched in other countries. One of these is the American Produce Prescription programme which involves doctors give their patients vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables, and workshops on cooking and healthy eating.
In the UK, GPs will be able to give similar vouchers to patients at risk of, or who have already developed food-related diseases, or are unable to access or afford healthy foods.
One final change the Government intends to bring in is the investment of £200M a year into a Holiday Activities and Food Programme which will offer healthy food and educational activities during the school holiday periods to children living in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK.
The National Food Strategy was published in July 2021, laying out recommendations to get the nation eating healthier and more sustainable foods. Some of its key points include the introduction of a salt tax, reformulation of the sugar tax, and offering financial help to lower income communities to allow them to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables.