Special guest joins kids for a hearty lunch

Warwickshire’s Joint Director of Public Health, John Linnane was a guest of honour at the Food for Life Partnership’s National Roast Dinner Day celebrations at Park Lane Primary School last week. 

Public Health Warwickshire has commissioned the Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) to undertake a pilot project with seven schools in the Nuneaton and Bedworth area to tackle their school food culture.

FFLP will be embedding growing and cooking skills in the schools, which have been identified as having some of the highest prevalence of obesity in the county. They will also be organising farm visits, improving the lunchtime experience and encouraging the schools taking part to  underpin their new food culture  through sustainable policies and practices. Warwickshire is one of only seven areas in England participating part in the project.

This commission is an integral part of the wider reducing obesity programme across Warwickshire.

Roast Dinner Day celebrated the work of the county caterers and school kitchen and dining staff and raised awareness of the importance of healthy school food.  All Warwickshire County Caterers recipes have been analysed to ensure that they meet the nutritional standards for school meals.

There are 14 nutrient based standards that menus have to comply with, so menu planning is a highly specialised art.  It takes a number of months to develop menus that meet the standards and Warwickshire County Caterers are adept at adapting recipes to meet the standards.

An average school lunch should provide 30 per cent of the total daily energy requirement. This is based on the assumption that three meals a day are consumed and that lunch provides approximately one third of the daily intake.  The calorie content of the meal will vary depending on if it is for a primary school or secondary.  This ensures that portion sizes are appropriate to the age group.

The energy should be healthy – no more than 35 per cent from fat (no more than 11 per cent from saturated fat) and not less than 50 per cent energy from carbohydrate (not more than 11 per cent from non milk extrinsic sugars).  The remainder of the energy is made up from protein.  There are minimum levels that need to be achieved for each of the 14 nutrients.  Therefore parents can be confident that if a menu meets the standards, it is healthy and of an appropriate portion size.

The Food for Life Partnership has just been presented with a 2012 Health Promotion and Community Wellbeing Award by the Royal Society for Public Health.  The award recognises the FLP’s commitment to tackling health inequalities through the transformation of food culture in schools and the development of key life skills in cooking, growing and understanding where food comes from.

The application was underpinned by the programme’s independent evaluation, some key findings from which are as follows:

  • The number of children reporting eating 5-a-day increased by 28 per cent in FFLP primary schools
  • 45 per cent of parents report eating more fruit & vegetables, changing their shopping patterns at home
  • Free school meal take up rose by 13 percentage points over 2 years and by 20 percentage points in secondary schools
  • Over £3 social return on investment for every £1 spent on Food for Life menus, mostly in the form of new jobs in the local economy.

Researchers also noted that FFLP was:

  • Effective at re-engaging pupils with learning
  • Attracting high levels of parental engagement
  • Particularly effective in schools within areas of high social deprivation
  • A useful tool for improving emotional health and wellbeing and an increase in pupil voice.