'Growing Appetite' For School Lunches

The number of children eating school lunches in England has seen a significant rise, according to national figures released today.

The number of pupils eating healthy food at school has seen the biggest year-on-year percentage point increase since the height of the school meals revolution.

The annual survey of school lunch take up for the 2009-10 year, carried out by the School Food Trust and the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA), shows that take up of healthy school lunches has increased in both primary and secondary schools.

The official statistics show that, in primary schools, the proportion of children eating a school lunch rose from 39.3 percent in 2008-09 to 41.4 percent in 2009-10, a 2.1 percentage point increase. Secondary schools saw a 0.8 percentage point rise from 35 percent1 in 2008-09 to 35.8 percent in 2009-10.

It means that an extra 320,980 pupils are now eating a healthy lunch every day at school, compared with the 2008-09 year.

The School Food Trust's Chair, Rob Rees, said: "The number of children eating school meals had been on a downward spiral for many years when Jamie Oliver brought the issue into the nation's living room, leading to even more children and parents turning their backs on canteens.

"Now, following the introduction of national standards for meals and the hard work to improve the dining room experience for children, this is being reversed – disproving the myth that children simply don’t want to eat healthy food.

"However, the number of children eating school meals is still in the minority so the School Food Trust, schools, caterers, local authorities and cooks still have a huge amount to do before we can say the school meals revolution is complete.

"That's why our work continues to help schools, local authorities, cooks and caterers right across the country find solutions that work for them to create sustainable school food services for the future."

Beverley Baker, LACA Chair, said: "This is a remarkable achievement by everyone involved in the provision of school food. However, the figures show that although more children are having a school meal every day than last year, this is still less than half of the school population.

"In order to maintain take up, or increase further the number of children and young people having a school meal, it is essential that we continue to give maximum support to the service so that we can sustain quality and ensure that prices remain affordable for parents."

Eating a healthy school meal improves children’s health by making sure they get the energy and nutrients they need – about a third of their daily intake. The national standards for school food were introduced to ensure that a portion of fruit and a portion of vegetables or salad are provided for every student eating school meals every day and that foods such as crisps, confectionery and sweetened drinks are no longer offered.


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