State of the Nation - our findings

We’ve unearthed the reality of children’s food in England, with results that will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Our latest State of the Nation report has landed, digging deeper into the reality of what children are eating at school – with results that prompt urgent action from the government.

We spoke to head teachers, school meal providers and caterers over an 18-month period. Our investigation highlights two key points of concern for children in schools:

  • At least 60% of secondary schools are failing to comply with the School Food Standards
  • 4 in 10 children leaving primary school will be overweight or obese by 2024

All caterers interviewed said cost pressures are affecting food quality in UK schools, with others trading down from British food to lower quality imported ingredients. School meals are in jeopardy, and action must be taken now.

The schools and caterers we work with at Food for Life do a fantastic job in leading the way in making healthy, tasty and sustainable meals the norm for all to enjoy. Independent studies report that pupils in Food for Life schools are twice as likely to eat five a day than pupils in comparison schools. What is more, evidence points towards Food for Life's potential to contribute to helping 'close the gap' for disadvantaged children in terms of their health and academic attainment.

Yet, with such cost pressures and uncertainty surrounding Brexit, caterers and schools cannot act in isolation.

Children eating school dinner

Armed with the findings from our investigation, our report sets out 5 recommendations for urgent government action and investment:

Our recommendations

  • Introduce a ‘plant protein day’ in schools
  • Set an ambitious target for organic in public procurement, including in schools
  • Ensure compliance with School Food Standards
  • Ensure school meals are adequately funded
  • Extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to artificial sweeteners

Read the full report here

Our thanks to English Tea Shop, who are pleased to sponsor this report.

English Tea Shop
SOTN 2019 report download

"We urge all concerned parents to ask whether their school has the Food for Life badge, as this is the only independent verification of school meal standards and ingredient quality."Rob Percival (Head of Food Policy, Soil Association)

Enrol your School
Is your school a FFL school?