2011 archive

December 2011

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Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

We hope you’ll agree that 2011 has been a great year of school food campaigning.

One of the highlights has to have been the hundreds of emails sent to the Department for Education calling for cooking to be kept on the National Curriculum. Despite it being the Department’s most-responded to consultation ever, with almost 6,000 responses, over ten per cent of these came from us, and specific wording from our response appeared in the summary published this week. It’s clear that the campaign has sent a strong message that practical cooking skills are really important, and need to be part of every child’s education. We’ve heard that it’s something the Department for Education are seriously considering, and we’ll be keeping the pressure on next year to make sure this becomes a reality.

As we say goodbye to 2011, we welcome Malcolm Clark to the Children’s Food Campaign. Malcolm is an experienced campaigner and will be taking over the coordination of the campaign from us in January.

We’re sure you’re busy with preparations for the festive season, so there are just a few titbits below to keep you going over the Christmas break:

 • Stop companies marketing junk food to children online by taking the ‘Lard Bar’ action!
 • Back to the bad old days? Jamie’s campaign to Save our School Foood
 • Tell us about free school meals
 • Lessons in Loaf: bread-making class for teachers

Wishing you a very happy festive season, and another great year of campaigning in 2012.

Best wishes,

Christine Haigh and Kawther Hashem
Children's Food Campaign Coordinators


Stop companies marketing junk food to children online by taking the ‘Lard Bar’ action!

We have just published a joint report, 'The 21st century gingerbread house', with our friends at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which shows how companies are exploiting gaps in marketing regulations by targeting children online with promotions for junk foods that cannot be advertised during children’s TV.

We are delighted that the report secured lots of media coverage including in six national Sunday newspapers, Sky and BBC TV news and BBC Radio 4. The report can be downloaded from our website or you can read a summary – together with junk food and advertising industry ‘excuses’ – on BBC News Online.

The Children’s Food Campaign and the BHF have written a joint letter to Jeremy Hunt – the Culture Secretary – to call on the Government to protect all children from junk food marketing when they play online.

You can help too. Take the BHF’s ‘5 Steps to Junk Food Marketing Success’ action which illustrates the sort of tactics that junk food companies would use to promote a fictional ‘Lard Bar’ product to children playing online. This includes an email action to Jeremy Hunt demanding tighter regulations around marketing to children online.

Ask your friends and family to take the Lard Bar action!


Back to the bad old days? Jamie’s campaign to Save our School Food

Some of you may have spotted our favourite celebrity chef on BBC Breakfast a couple of weeks back, highlighting a worrying trend: the return of junk food to particular schools in England.

The problem has arisen because academies and free schools are no longer required to adhere to the standards for school food, which apply in all other schools in England. Already there have been reports of junk food reappearing in tuck shops and vending machines. And with more than one million children in England now attending academies, this could quickly become a huge problem, undoing much of the hard work done in recent years to improve food in schools.

We’re working closely with other school food organisations and Jamie Oliver to ‘Save our School Food’, putting pressure on the Government to apply the standards to all schools, including academies. You can register your support for campaign and stay up to date with the latest developments via the Save our School Food Facebook page.


Tell us about free school meals

Thanks to everyone who has taken our action to call on the Department for Education for a better free school meals system. At a meeting we attended at the Department earlier this month, it was encouraging that our concerns were being taken on board. The challenge now is to persuade them of our solution! For more detail on our vision for a better free school meals system, check out our briefing.

One of the ways we hope this can be done is by demonstrating the importance of free school meals to families who receive them. We are working with the Children’s Society which is running a survey of parents in families who are (or have previously been) entitled to free school meals (whether or not they took up their entitlement), about their experiences and their views on creating a free school meal system that works for all children and families.

If you are a parent in this position, please complete their online survey.


Lessons in Loaf: bread-making class for teachers

One of our sister campaigns, the Real Bread Campaign, is organising a half day workshop for teachers and cooks to learn how to run bread-making classes in their schools. The class will be hosted by TV cook and author Katie Caldesi at her Marylebone cookery school on Wednesday 25 January.

Places at the half-day workshop can be booked online. If you know anyone who might be interested in attending, please forward them these details.

November 2011

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Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

Next Thursday we will be going to a meeting at the Department for Education to discuss options for criteria to decide which children will be entitled to free school meals under the new Universal Credit welfare system.

It’s really important that the Government knows that there are hundreds of people who believe that healthy free school meals are important, and should be available - as a minimum - to all children living in poverty. So if you haven’t emailed Education Secretary Michael Gove about this yet, please do so now. And once you have, please help us to spread the word – it’s really easy to do using the tools on our site.

It’s been a busy month here at Children’s Food HQ, so there’s lots more in this month’s round-up too:

• Join the call for clearer food labelling
• Keep up the pressure to keep kids cooking
• Wanted: new Children’s Food Campaign Coordinator

Please read on for details of how to get involved.

Best wishes,

Christine Haigh and Kawther Hashem
Children's Food Campaign Coordinators


Join the call for clearer food labelling

New European regulations passed earlier this year means that the Government now has the opportunity to recommend a single simple system of food labelling to make it easier for people to make healthy choices and tell what’s in the food they’re buying. This would help solve the confusion currently created by different companies using different schemes, making it difficult to compare between products.

We’re working with our friends at the British Heart Foundation to put pressure on the Government to recommend a system with traffic light colours, which has been shown to be the easiest for shoppers to use. Please email your MP to ask them to push Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to recommend a single simple system of clear food labelling – this is quick and easy to do via the British Heart Foundation’s website.

Keep up the pressure to keep kids cooking

We know that if people aren't able to prepare simple healthy meals, they have little hope of eating well. In the New Year, the Government will start the second phase of its review of the National Curriculum when it will consider whether or not all children should be taught practical cooking skills at school.

Since we started our campaign to keep kids cooking, 76 MPs have supported a motion in Parliament calling for the provision of a minimum of 24 hours practical cooking lessons put in place by the last Government to be retained. This is great – but there are many more who haven’t yet supported the motion. As we approach this crucial phase in the campaign, please help us spread the word. And please make sure you’ve contacted your own MP about this issue. If you’ve had a reply from them, and want some tips on how to respond, please contact Christine Haigh at Christine@sustainweb.org or on 0203 5596 777.

Wanted: new Children’s Food Campaign Coordinator

After three years, Children’s Food Campaign Coordinator Christine Haigh will be moving on in January. So we’re on the lookout for a new coordinator for the campaign. Do you know any experienced campaigners with a passion for children’s food and public health? If so, we’d like to hear from them! Full details of the vacancy are available on the Sustain website, so please pass on the details. Applications are welcome up until 7 December.


October 2011

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Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

We know that lots of you will be enjoying half term, but we’re still thinking about school food! This week we have launched a new campaign calling for a better free school meal system.

Next year, the Government will choose new criteria to determine which children will be entitled to receive free school meals when the new Universal Credit welfare system is introduced in 2013. This is a real opportunity to address some of the problems with the current system, in which around half of children living in poverty can’t get free school meals because one or both of their parents work.

But if the Government gets it wrong, we could end up with a more unfair system, even perhaps seeing some families losing the much needed free meals that they current receive. We are calling for a simple system where all children whose families receive the new Universal Credit benefit will be entitled to free school meals. This would mean that all children living in poverty would have access to a healthy meal at school, and ensure that parents would not be left out of pocket if they started working.

Please join our campaign by emailing Education Secretary Michael Gove to support this system using our quick and easy online action.

You can also use our ‘sharing’ tools to spread the word to family and friends on Twitter, Facebook and by email.

If you’d like to know more about this issue, check out the free school meals page on our website, where you can download a briefing explaining more about the different options for the changes. We’ll be updating this page as the campaign develops – and also posting new information on Facebook and Twitter so keep your eyes peeled.

Happy campaigning!

Christine Haigh and Kawther Hashem
Children's Food Campaign Coordinators

September 2011

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Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

It’s a little while since you last heard from us, but it’s not that we’ve been on holiday (well, not all the time!) Instead we’ve been busy at our desks preparing two new reports, both of which have received coverage in the media.

Our research lays the foundation for some concerted campaigning, which we’ll be getting stuck into soon, and will need your support for. Read on to learn more!

Best wishes for the new school year,

Christine Haigh and Kawther Hashem
Children's Food Campaign Coordinators 


Soft drinks, hard sell

The August bank holiday weekend saw the launch of our report, Soft drinks, hard sell, which exposes how soft drink manufacturers are using misleading marketing to target children and their parents. The story was covered in the Daily Mail, and we even featured on Channel Five news!

Examples highlighted in the report include a Britvic website which suggests that its products are better than water at keeping children hydrated, and a Vimto marketing campaign emphasising the drink’s raspberry content, despite the fact that raspberry juice makes up just 0.1 per cent of its ingredients. The research also highlights how the makers of Ribena have to add 90 per cent of its vitamin C content artificially because it contains such a small amount of fruit juice.

As water is by far the healthiest – and most sustainable – drink to quench children’s thirst, we’re continuing our campaign for drinking fountains in parks and other public places. The best way to get drinking fountains in your local area is to petition your council – after a petition last summer to the Lambeth Council in south London, the local authority upgraded, repaired or replaced over 20 fountains in parks around the borough. To get started, visit our website.

Chips with your crayons?

Something else we have started to investigate recently is how chain stores are promoting junk food at their checkouts. In the last year or so, several parents have expressed concerns about this issue, and last week we published the results of our first bit of research on this, looking at how junk food was being promoted by high street stationery chain WH Smith.

During August we asked four children to visit local WH Smith stores to buy a small item of stationery to see if they were subject to any junk food marketing. On three separate occasions, our youngest researcher, who was just eight years old, was given discount vouchers for McDonalds. When we looked at the vouchers, we calculated that they could be used to purchase cut-price food containing up to 4,630 calories and nearly 16 g of salt – two and a half days worth of energy and four times the Guideline Daily Amount of salt for a child of that age. You can read the full results of our investigation here.

Some of you may have heard us being interviewed about this on Radio 5 Live on 4 September; the story was also covered by The People.

We would like to hear about any examples you’ve seen of retailers – whether they’re supermarkets or other stores like WH Smith - pushing junk food at their checkouts. And if there are other children’s food issues you’d like to see us working on, please let us know. Email your suggestions to Christine@sustainweb.org, or give us a call on 0203 5596 777. We can’t promise that we’ll be able to pursue every one of them straightaway, but they will be given careful consideration.

The Irresponsibility Deal?

We’ve continued to monitor the Government’s plans for public health, and continued to be disappointed.

At the end of August, we published our analysis of the Change4Life anti-obesity campaign’s ‘Really Big Summer Adventure’. The centrepiece of this was a discount booklet containing vouchers to be redeemed with food companies including Asda, Heinz and Kellogg’s. We calculated that the companies involved would pocket more than £275 if consumers redeemed the full £50-worth of vouchers. We also highlighted cases of unhealthy products, such as a Heinz Mayonnaise containing 26 per cent fat, being included in the promotion, and examples of own-branded products that would be cheaper and healthier than the branded equivalents, even if the discount vouchers were used.

And last week we published our latest report, The Irresponsibility Deal?, which criticises the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, concluding that it is likely to fail because food industry commitments are weak, voluntary and ignored by numerous big food companies. We want to see much more ambitious policies that all companies are required to adopt – such as proper regulation to protect children from junk food marketing. At the moment, food companies are free to decide whether or not they’ll bother to make any commitments to help people eat more healthily. We were pleased that the report was covered by a prestigious academic publication, the British Medical Journal. You can read more and download the report here.

Help us keep kids cooking!

We’re really pleased that 72 MPs have now signed the Early Day Motion in support of keeping practical cooking lessons on the school curriculum, and many more have written to the government to ask them about their plans. If you’ve not already contacted your MP about this, please do – it’s quick and easy using our online action.

The Government has been responding to MPs saying that they think that schools are already teaching cooking – so there’s no need to keep it on the curriculum. But we’ve heard of schools where cooking isn’t being taught, or pupils only get a few hours of lessons. We’d like to get an idea of how widespread this problem is so that we can present the Government with a better picture of the situation and challenge their assumption that nothing needs to be done. If you know of a secondary school where pupils get few or no practical cooking lessons, please let us know. You can contact us via Christine@sustainweb.org, or give us a call on 0203 5596 777.

(Please note that, because education is a devolved issue, the Government’s review of the curriculum only covers England and therefore we are only looking for examples of schools in England.)

May 2011

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Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

There’s lots of news this month – some good; some sad. We’re proud to have seen the recommendations of our recent report on food growing in schools have been taken on board by the government, and are excited by a new Early Day Motion that has been tabled in Parliament, highlighting the importance of cooking skills in schools.

But we’re also sad to be saying goodbye to Jackie Schneider, who has been coordinating the campaign for the last two and a half years - she’s leaving us to go back to teaching. Her imaginative approach and boundless energy for campaigning will be sorely missed, but we wish her well in her new job. However, we’re delighted that Kawther Hashem, who has a nutrition background, is able to assist with campaign co-ordination in her place.

Best wishes for the bank holiday weekend,

Christine Haigh
Children's Food Campaign Coordinator


Help bolster our campaign to keep kids cooking

Last week, Zac Goldsmith MP tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM 1816) in Parliament, calling for cooking lessons to be retained in every secondary school. An EDM is a kind of Parliamentary petition that MPs can sign to show their support for an issue, and send a message to the Government that a particular cause is important.

Already, more than 20 MPs from seven different parties have signed up to express their support for the motion. But we need many more MPs to sign EDM 1816 to show the government the strength of concern about this issue. Please contact your MP to ask them to sign it – this is quick and easy using our online action.

Don't worry if you're not sure who your MP is - this will be worked out when you fill in your details. And if your MP has already signed the EDM, the email will be automatically updated to thank them and ask them to raise the issue directly with the Government.

Please let us know if you receive a response from your MP about this, as this will help us to see the national picture of support for this issue. You can email details of any response to christine@sustainweb.org, or post it to us at 94 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PF.

Join the call for clear food labelling

At the moment there are two ways you can make your voice heard in the debate around food labelling.

At the European level, now is the time to email your MEPs to call for clear food labelling on the front of food packets – on 5 July all MEPs will vote on labelling legislation, and it’s important that they receive a strong message that this is what consumers want. We’re working with the British Heart Foundation on this campaign; you can take action via their website here.

Meanwhile, the UK government is asking for the public’s views on food labelling as part of their ‘Red Tape Challenge’. Although the aim of the consultation is to find unnecessary regulation that can be scrapped or simplified, many of the comments they’ve received so far have highlighted the importance of labelling in enbaling consumers to understand what’s in the food they’re buying. You can make your own comments on their website. If you’d like some ideas of what to say, our clear food labelling page might give you some inspiration.


Defra backs school food growing task force

Earlier this week, speaking at the Chelsea Flower Show, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman announced a new task force, backed by her department, which has been set up to look at ways to ensure food-growing becomes a routine part of children’s learning experience in all schools.

We’re welcoming the task force, which was recommended in the recent report ‘Every school a food-growing school’, that we co-authored with other gardening and educational charities. You can read our response here.


April 2011

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Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

This month we’ve been working hard on our campaign to persuade the Government to keep cooking on the school curriculum. We’ve attracted the support of a number of celebrity chefs and many people have already signed our online action.  There’s little over a week to go until the Department for Education’s consultation on the issue closes – so if you’ve not taken action yet, please do so now.

Read on for details of our celebrity supporters, the latest on the Department of Health’s collaboration with the food industry, and a new campaign challenging the tempting snacks at the checkout.

Thanks again for your support.

Christine Haigh and Jackie Schneider
Children's Food Campaign Coordinators

Tops chefs join campaign to keep kids cooking!

We’re thrilled that a host of top chefs and foodies are supporting our campaign to keep cooking on the school curriculum. Jamie Oliver, Ainsley Harriott, Gary Rhodes and Raymond Blanc are among those who signed a letter to the Education Secretary Michael Gove calling on him to retain practical cooking lessons in the review of the curriculum that has just started. If you’d like to read more, check out the article on our website.

It’s great timing as there are only ten days left to have your say and let the Government know that you want all children to learn practical cooking lessons as part of their education. If you’ve not done so, it only takes a minute using our simple online action.

Many thanks if you have already responded to the consultation – now please tell your friends! The easiest way to do this is via our website, which provides you with an example of what you can email, tweet or share on Facebook.

Sweet temptations?

We’ve recently heard from a parent who is concerned about the way that supermarkets and other chain stores put sweets and other snacks on their checkouts to tempt children (and adults) while they’re queuing.

We’d like to hear from you about this – do you find that your children are tempted by shops using this tactic? Have you noticed any shops that are use this tactic a lot? Is this something you think we should be campaigning on?

Please let us know your thoughts by emailing Christine@sustainweb.org, or sending us a message via Twitter or Facebook.

How not to tackle the obesity crisis

Last month saw the launch of the Department of Health’s much vaunted “Responsibility Deals”, which saw the food industry and other companies deciding what they did and didn’t want to do in the way of improving public health, and then announcing it with great fanfare.

In response, respected health organisations the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK refused to sign up, following a number of alcohol charities that had walked out on the industry-dominated alcohol initiative.

Our response was to point out that the food initiatives announced as part of the Deal were simply “recycled” from work the Food Standards Agency had been doing until the Government removed its nutrition remit, and to call for real action to tackle the country’s obesity crisis, such as regulation to protect children from junk food advertising.

We'll be continuing to monitor the involevement of junk food companies in setting public health policy - stay tuned for more.


March 2011

Dear friends of the Children’s Food Campaign,

We need your help to convince MEPs that we want clear food labelling to enable us to make informed food choices.

On Wednesday 16th March, the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament will discuss proposals for front of pack food labelling. This legislation has been subject to fierce lobbying by parts of the food industry who want to avoid having to label their products in ways which would help consumers to make healthier choices.

We are working with the British Heart Foundation on this issue, and they have set up a simple online action which allows you to email any of your MEPs that sit on the committee, asking them to support clear labelling. Please visit their website to take action now.

Christine Haigh and Jackie Schneider
Children's Food Campaign Coordinators 


February 2011

SCHOOL COOKING LESSONS ARE UNDER THREAT: we urgently need your help to keep kids cooking

We need thousands of people to respond to the Department of Education’s consultation on the national curriculum so that they receive a clear message that every child must be guaranteed basic cooking lessons. We’ve set up an action on our website so that you can respond to this consultation quickly and easily.

The new government plans to “slim down” the national curriculum and there is a very real danger that this will mean that practical hands-on cooking lessons for 11-14 year olds will no longer be compulsory. If we don’t teach children basic cooking skills it makes it more likely that they will be forced to rely on processed ready meals or fast food which is often unhealthy.

If we are serious about reducing the impact of diet-related illness which affects so many young lives, it is vital that we teach our children how to prepare and cook healthy meals from fresh ingredients – so please take action now.
Thanks for all your support for our campaign.

Best wishes,

Christine Haigh and Jackie Schneider
Children's Food Campaign

P.S. You might also be interested in the review of commercialisation and sexualisation of children which is being carried out by Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers' Union. We will be submitting evidence to this review, highlighting the impact of junk food marketing on children’s diet and health. As part of the review, parents and carers are invited to give their views. If you’d like to have your say, there is a questionnaire (which only takes around 10 minutes to complete) to fill in on the Department for Education’s website.

January 2011

Dear friends,

Hopefully this email finds you well as 2011 gets underway.  At the Children’s Food Campaign we’ve been busy, scrutinising the latest phase of the government’s Change4Life anti-obesity campaign, in which junk food companies are even more involved – you can read our analysis below.

We’re also gearing up for a big new campaign to coincide with the government’s review of how many children will get free school meals under the new benefits system – there’ll be more on this next month.

In the meantime, we’re doing all we can to make sure we’re reaching out to everyone who cares about children’s food and wants to see the government and food companies do their bit to protect children’s health – to find out how you can help, please read on.

Thanks, as ever, for your support – and let’s make 2011 another great and successful year of campaigning.

Jackie Schneider and Christine Haigh
Children’s Food Campaign Coordinators

The Great Swapathon rip-off

Earlier this month we published our analysis of the Great Swapathon, the latest phase of the Change4Life campaign in which junk food companies play an even greater role.  We found that the promotion, which uses “swap vouchers” to encourage people to make changes to their purchasing habits, is a great marketing opportunity for the companies involved, but of little value to consumers – people would have to spend £117 to redeem all the vouchers provided, and over half the promoted discount is already available even without the vouchers.  In some cases, it would be cheaper and healthier for consumers to buy a supermarket own-brand product rather than the equivalent branded product using the voucher.

Although we welcome efforts to promote healthy food, we’re concerned that until the government takes real action to crack down on the vast amount of junk food advertising that our children are exposed to, we’re unlikely to see much improvement in the record levels of childhood obesity the country faces.  And unfortunately, partnerships with companies like Cadbury, Nestlé and PepsiCo make it less, rather than more, likely that we’ll see the regulation necessary to achieve this.

Our analysis was covered by the Guardian – click here to read more.  We’ll be continuing to monitor developments in the campaign, and will let you know when there are any opportunities to demand change.

Help us be a greater force for change

As we gear up to persuade the government to make more children eligible for free healthy school meals in its upcoming review, we need as much support as possible. 

Here are some ways you can help:

Support our campaign

Your donation will help us champion children’s rights, parent power and government action to improve the food environment children grow up in.


Children's Food Campaign

Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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