Department for Education support LACA's 'Hot'ober' campaign
Subject: Letter from the Minister for Children and Families regarding school food provision
As the Minister responsible for school food I wanted to write to you all to thank you and your catering teams for all for the efforts you’ve undertaken to get your kitchens up and running again. The government encourages all schools to promote healthy eating and provide healthy, tasty and nutritious food and drink and to support children to develop healthy eating habits.
These are challenging times for schools and I am acutely aware that the current COVID-19 situation has had a real logistical impact on food provision in schools. I welcome the support that schools are providing via food parcels to those eligible children that are self-isolating.
However, given what we know about the links between living with obesity in childhood and adulthood it has never been more important to ensure that children are eating healthy and nutritious meals at school and, in doing so, are building an understanding of the importance of healthy choices that supports their development now and in the future.
School Food Standards
We already have robust School Food Standards set in legislation which require school caterers to serve healthy and nutritious food and drinks which make sure children get the energy and nutrition they need across the school day. The Standards restrict foods high in fat, salt and sugar, including drinks and confectionary. A summary of the Standards and a practical guide are available from gov.uk.
I and the Minister for Public Health, Prevention and Primary Care would encourage schools to be vigilant in ensuring the current School Food Standards are met and that all standards are applied at the relevant time of day. All state-funded schools (including all academies) must follow the Standards. These Standards must also apply across the whole school day, including, for example, at breakfast clubs, tuck shops, mid-morning break, vending and after school clubs.
Due to the priority of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and the pressures on schools this presents, the government will not be taking further action during the course of the pandemic on updating the School Food Standards, but we would expect that schools will be ensuring adherence to those currently in operation.
The vast majority of children are in school and we understand schools may be finding it hard at this time to provide children with their usual hot meal at lunchtime especially given the need to minimise contact between bubbles. Furthermore, higher numbers of parents may also be sending their children in with a packed lunch. Schools have flexibility within the School Food Standards around which products/foods they serve across the school week. There is no legal requirement that meals should be hot, however we do encourage this and ask all schools to routinely be offering a varied hot meal option to pupils. It is much harder to comply with the School Food Standards through the provision of cold food alone. I would urge you all to work closely with your caterers to make every effort to ensure children are receiving a healthy and nutritious hot meal at school. Once the pandemic is over, I would encourage you to consider introducing measures such as ‘family dining’ which can help instil good eating habits, if facilities allow.
I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of school food campaigns that you may wish to engage with your catering team on:
· October saw the launch of Hot’ober, led by LACA, (the organisation representing school food providers) which aims to encourage schools and pupils to get back to eating a hot and nutritious school lunch. There are a range of resources to support this here:
· The annual National School Meals week is taking place from 9th-13th November. The aim of this campaign is to highlight the importance and benefits of school meals and to champion and celebrate school caterers. It includes a Taste for Yourself campaign to encourage pupils and parents back to school meals. Further information on NSMW can be found on LACA’s website:
Thank you again for your commitment in supporting children to return to school safely and in working with your kitchen and catering staff to provide healthy, nutritious meals and ensure School Food Standards are upheld throughout the whole school day.
I’d also like to remind you that schools are legally obliged to provide access at all times to free drinking water on the school premises. Schools should consider the most appropriate way to do this if, for public health reasons, pupils do not have access to water fountains. I would also encourage the use of refillable bottles, alongside other steps to reduce single-use plastics.
Vicky Ford MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for
Children and Families
Jo Churchill MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for
Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care