APSE says debate over ‘Martha's blog’ shows school meals matter
The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has welcomed the debate about school meals that has been opened up as a result of schoolgirl Martha Payne's blog.
The 'Neverseconds' blog by the nine-year-old from Lochgilphead, Argyll has put school food under the media spotlight.
APSE chief executive Paul O'Brien said his organisation, which represents councils providing front-line services across the UK including education catering, had campaigned for the highest standards in school food and believed that opening up debate would give school meals the importance they deserved politically.
“Martha's blog takes a balanced view and her experience of food at school is positive overall. Though some meals appear less appetising than others, her latest ‘food-o-meter’ score rated her school lunch 10/10.
“APSE's data shows that nutritional standards and uptake of primary school meals have risen over the past five years despite the fact that funding has not kept pace with food costs and pressure on education caters' budgets has increased.
“Every day, school catering staff freshly prepare, cook and serve thousands of meals for Scotland's children. The meals are delivered to strict nutritional standards, within a very limited budget and a short timeframe.
“For some children, school lunch may be the only hot cooked meal they get each day. Whilst there may be variation and caterers don't get everything right all the time, we should applaud their hard work and dedication in delivering school meals to high standards with decreasing budgets.
“Martha's blog has highlighted that school meals really do matter. Getting children to take an interest in their meals can have positive effects and Martha's blog has given us an opportunity to keep school meals firmly on the political menu.”
He added: “Scotland has been in the vanguard of implementing positive school food policies. The Hungry for Success initiative introduced a radically different school meals service that is envied by many other countries.
“This allocated £137m Government funding between 2003 and 2009 and was backed with robust legislation for food and nutrient standards.
“This commitment was recently reinforced by its ‘National Food and Drink Policy’. Linking school meals to Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence is at the heart of the drive to tackle the nation's health challenges.
“School caterers who are sourcing locally are also opening up the supply chain to hard pressed Scottish food producers and suppliers.”
APSE data showed that in Scotland school meals were of a high standard.
“We continually collect data on good practice and measure performance throughout the UK, so we know that the quality is there and services provided are both innovative and highly rated.”
He called for the school meals service to be fully supported by ministers and head teachers.
“Presentation requires consideration. Heads need to consider the impact on school food when timetables are condensed leaving less time to serve pupils and for pupils to eat their meals, as this can impact on presentation.
“Political parties need to understand that school meals should be integrated into school improvement and health measures,” he said.