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LACA response to Jamie Oliver’s views published in the Education Guardian

LACA response to Jamie Oliver’s views published in the Education Guardian

•    School catering providers welcome focus on the threat to healthy school meals
•    LACA asks why a celebrity intervention is needed to gain Government and media attention on this important issue
•    Despite DfE trust in Academies to maintain nutritional standards, there are already signs that they are being breached or relaxed

Further to the views expressed by Jamie Oliver in today’s (Tuesday 25 October) Education Guardian, LACA (formerly the Local Authority Caterers Association) would also like to provide its support and add its voice to the debate.

LACA feels that there is serious potential for the progress made in improving school food over the last six years to be de-railed by the lack of positive action by the current Government to safeguard funding and ensure universal Nutritional Standards.

Commenting on some of the key issues raised by Jamie, Lynda Mitchell, LACA Chair says:

“We always welcome Jamie’s passion for school meals and we equally share his frustration. However, we do ask why it always requires his intervention and attention from the national media to highlight concerns that the school food industry itself has been communicating to the Government and the public for months?”

“In April of this year, LACA wrote to all MPs calling on them to take action against the exemption from Nutritional Standards for Academies and Free Schools, which apply to all other state Primary, Secondary and Special Schools. With Academies being open for longer hours, providing a wider range of meals from breakfast to after-school food, it is vital that the Standards apply equally to these establishments. Despite the Education Secretary’s confidence that Academy Head Teachers can be trusted, LACA has heard that the Standards are already being breached or relaxed in some schools”.

“Without positive legislation to ensure that they are mandatory for all Schools and Academies, Nutritional Standards will fade into obscurity over time and any progress made in improving the eating habits of children and young people will be undermined”.

“The impact of the removal of the School Lunch Grant as a separate income strand within school budgets, combined with the tough austerity measures being called for by Local Government within public services, is now being felt.  Local Authorities and schools are having to look at alternative means of maintaining standards of school meal provision.  This means considering new ways of delivering school food services and/or having to make price increases. Keeping school meals as affordable as possible for parents has been an essential requirement in order to maintain quality and increase uptake of healthy school meals”.

“Like Jamie, we fear that the hard work of the last six years to win over children, young people and parents could well be on the point of going backwards.  Having seen an increase in school meal uptake¹ for the third year running, we appear to have turned a corner and it would be detrimental to the long term health of this nation to lose that momentum now.  Without greater intervention by this Government to ensure that funding is protected, this encouraging progress will falter and the health and wellbeing of children and young people will be put at risk”.

“LACA Members manage this country’s school meal provision at the frontline. We are committed to working with schools and Local Authorities to emphasise the importance of school meals to the development of young people and how it should form part of the whole school approach to their education.  Their role has been fundamental to the success achieved in driving up school meal numbers and improving eating habits. In the longer term, their contribution will also be helping to decrease obesity levels and ultimately, our national bill for diet-related illnesses”.

“Jamie’s school food premium idea is an interesting one but how feasible it is in the present economic climate, is uncertain. However, LACA fully empathizes with Jamie’s desperation. We also believe that taking no action is not an option”.

LACA (Local Authority Caterers Association)