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‘Broken Plate’ report calls for a major overhaul of Britain's food system and commends Food for Life

Child with plate

The Broken Plate 2022 report published this week (July 19th) by The Food Foundation highlights that the UK is in a national health crisis and calls for a ‘major overhaul’ of the UK's food system. The report commends Food for Life Served Here certification to help ensure children have access to a healthy school lunch.

Laura Chan, Soil Association’s Policy Officer commented: 

“This year’s Broken Plate report comes at a crucial time - just after the appallingly thin Government Food ‘Strategy’ and just before a change in government leadership.

The report shows how much work is still to be done to transform food environments and to make good food an easy choice for everyone. As the cost-of-living crisis continues, there needs to be swift action by all actors in the food system, including policy makers, to support public health.  

With millions of meals eaten in schools every school day, we are pleased to see school food added as a metric in this year’s report. School food is a fundamental part of the food system and it is crucial that these meals support the health and wellbeing of those eating them.” 

The system is set against choosing the healthy option 

The report revealed that children and low-income households are experiencing the severest health implications due to health inequalities, which are exacerbated by rising costs. This included stunted growth in children and record-breaking levels of diabetes-related amputations.

The poorest fifth of UK households need to spend 47% of their disposable income on food to meet the cost of the Government-recommended healthy diet.  

Food for Life believe that healthy and nutritious food should be accessible to all. We work with caterers, schools, early years settings and other public settings, serving over 2 million healthy and nutritious meals per day. 

School food is more important than ever 

Mandatory legal standards are in place across the UK nations to ensure that schools are serving food of adequate nutritional quality to support children’s health and learning. 

However, compliance levels are not always currently properly monitored or enforced. For many children, a school meal is the only substantial meal they might receive each day. Therefore, it needs to be healthy to ensure they have the nutrients they need to thrive. 

How can we measure standards? 

  • 25% of schools in England are certified by Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH)
  • 47% of schools in Scotland are certified by FFLSH Scotland
  • In England, compliance in other schools in unknown due to the lack of transparent data 
  • In Scotland, compliance with legislative nutritional regulations is monitored and inspected by Education Scotland, who also support caterers to complete self-evaluation in addition to inspections. 
A study from 2019 within two London boroughs found that 60% of secondary schools were not meeting standards, and suggests that compliance across England is at the same level. 

The Food Foundation have called on the Government to enforce monitoring of compliance with school food requirements to ensure that all children can access a nutritious school lunch. 

Accreditation is the only way to enforce and monitor standards 

“In the absence of transparent government monitoring, schools can demonstrate their compliance with the standards (as well as other positive aspects of their school food offer) by taking part in voluntary schemes. The largest of these is the Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here scheme.” - ‘The Broken Plate’ 2022, The Food Foundation. 

The report recommends Food for Life Served Here as one of the solutions to improving food in schools, helping to ensure that all children have access to a healthy meal. This aligns with the recommendation in Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy for all schools to be accredited by a scheme like FFLSH. 

We support the call for mandatory monitoring and enforcement of School Food Standards in schools. 

Our Head of Policy, Rob Percival, comments: 

“Building on Food for Life’s example, the Government should develop a school food accreditation scheme that promotes a ‘whole school approach’, including reporting on and verification of school food standards. This would provide schools and caterers with a framework for progress towards excellence, working from the baseline provided by the mandatory reporting outlined in the recent Levelling Up White Paper.” 

Want to ensure children have access to healthy food? Learn more about Food for Life. 

Why is the ‘whole school approach to healthy food crucial in the aftermath of the National Food Strategy? Read more from one Gold Food for Life awarded school Headteacher.