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LACA responds to Guardian letter on school meal standards in academies

02 Dec 2011

LACA chair Lynda Mitchell has sent a letter to the Guardian supporting the views of children’s food campaigner and teacher Jackie Schneider.

The national newspaper recently published a letter from Schneider, a Food For Life Partnership adviser, urging all supporters of school meal standards to challenge Education Secretary Michael Gove to apply the nutritional standards to academies and free schools.

Lynda writes: “With reference to the letter from Jackie Schneider in The Guardian (November 29), LACA (Local Authority Caterers’ Association) completely agrees with her sentiments.

“We totally share her frustration over the Government's unwillingness to apply the same nutritional standards for school food to academies and free schools with which all other state schools have to comply.

“We can assure her that, way ahead of Jamie Oliver's recent comments and his attempts to persuade the education secretary to take action, LACA had already raised its members' concerns with the Government about this important issue.

“In April 2011, LACA wrote to all MPs calling on them to take action against the exemption of academies and free schools from the standards. Other approaches to government ministers and departments have been met with reassurances about the level of trust that can be placed in academy heads to voluntarily maintain the nutritional standards.

“However, LACA is aware from its members that there are signs that these standards are already being breached or relaxed.

“Without positive legislation to ensure that they are mandatory for all schools and academies, LACA has warned that nutritional standards will fade into obscurity over time and any progress in improving the eating habits of children and young people will be undermined.

“LACA members manage this country's school food provision at the front line and they fear the hard work of the last six years to win over the hearts, minds and bodies of children, young people and their parents to healthier school meals could well be on the point of going backwards.

“LACA agrees that taking no action on this issue can not be an option. We call on the education secretary to intervene now or face the prospect of reversing the upward trend in the take up of school meals (up again in 2011 for third year running) and of also putting the future health and well being of children and young people in this country at risk.”

Schneider’s original letter in full read: “I have spent much of the last six years helping to clear up the damage caused by Thatcher ripping up nutritional standards for school meals.

“Far from saving us money this nasty piece of deregulation cost our children and the school meal service dear. Following a commendable campaign by Jamie Oliver and others we finally got nutritional standards again only now Gove and Cameron don't have the front to take them down openly and are doing so by stealth.

“By refusing to apply the nutritional standards to academies and free schools whilst encouraging the majority of schools to become academies they are effectively destroying the standards.

“That is why I have written to the School Food Trust, The Local Authority Catering Association, The Food for Life Partnership and The Children's Food Campaign asking them to stand should to shoulder with Jamie Oliver and insist Michael Gove applies nutritional standards to ALL schools. I expect these organisations to ‘speak truth to power’. Failure to do so will have dire consequences on the school dinners our children will be eating."