A golden age for school meals

Yesterday was a historic day. It may get lost in translation, or politics, but it was a momentous opportunity to have positive impact of the health of the future generation.

Just think about that for a minute, an opportunity to change the predisposed 'chance' that a child born into poverty may have rickets or behavioural issues. A chance to almost do a bit of a Back to the Future and change that! WOW! There was even a little bit of legislation passed.

But I can't help but think we have been on the cusp of this wave before. Jamie Oliver achieved a lot. Prue Leith and the School Food Trust introduced School Food Standards, which were set in law so the Turkey Twizzler met its demise. Somehow yesterday felt different.

John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, authors of the School Food Plan have lunch

John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, authors of the School Food Plan have lunch

It's a no-brainer to me. Free infant school meals is a great thing for lots of reasons, I am not ignoring those with a different viewpoint, I just happen to think most of them are motivated by things that don't float my boat.

  • Early years are critical in experiencing tastes and flavours, learning to use cutlery and sharing a daily meal. Lots of families do not get to sit together at home any more.
  • I am no dietician however I know if I eat a good lunch and take time out to sit and converse I have a more productive afternoon, research seems to support this anecdote.
  • Let's not beat around the bush, we are a fat nation, and getting fatter. Having a balanced lunch and getting children to taste new foods at an early age will have a positive impact for years to come on a potential drain on the NHS. A shocking £6 BILLION is spent on food related illnesses, not forgetting the misery people will obviously live in.

I worked for a heart disease charity called Heart of Mersey, back in 2006. I remember the day legislation was passed that day too. It was 14th February 2006 and it was a poignant day. A day full of shiny red hearts. And legislation passed to help protect the hearts and lungs of workers. There were naysayers and campaigners against then too. But look how far we have come!

I am delighted to be back in the thick of it, working with The School Food Plan, we have a busy few months ahead to help communicate the news, support schools and caterers and importantly listen to them, but we are up for the challenge.

Don't get me wrong there is lots to do, a head teacher's life is already a busy and complex one but I hope they will see that the provision of Infant Free School Meals is a fantastic opportunity. There are lots of organisations from the NAHT and Change4Life with the skills and expertise to help support.

But I don't underestimate the strength of school cooks, have you met any? They are ace! Most of the time they just need to be given the opportunity to share ideas and become an integral part of a school. Then watch them grow. They love the children they help nurture.

I sincerely hope that this doesn't get sidelined by the colour of a political party, as it shouldn't be about that. I hope capital funds for school and dining improvements don't disappear into a pot and are therefore not used to buy real pots and pans... This is a once in a lifetime chance, like the creation of the NHS. Le's not fcuk it up?

PS: This is a blog from me at You Say Agency. Views my own and all that jazz.