News Children's Food Campaign

Ultra-processed foods undermining children's joy of eating real food

Leading chefs, food writers, schools and food organisations including Sustain's Children's Food Campaign have written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to warn that dominance of Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) in children's diets is robbing them of the joy and adventure in tasting fresh food and learning about how food is grown and made.

Children enjoy a healthy school lunch. Credit: Jon Goldberg / Children's Food Campaign

Children enjoy a healthy school lunch. Credit: Jon Goldberg / Children's Food Campaign

TV chefs, food writers, school food and health experts, led by the Soil Association have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister appealing to him to ensure children eat well.

In the letter, signed by head teachers, chefs, food writers and TV personalities including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bee Wilson, Yotam Ottolenghi, Thomasina Miers and Dr Chris van Tulleken, as well as the Children's Food Campaign, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, Food Foundation and First Steps Nutrition Trust, the experts say that learning to eat should be a joyful adventure into all the different shapes, smells, flavours and textures of different food, but the increasing dominance of ultra-processed food in the nation's diets are robbing them of this rich experience.

The authors point to the power of school food to redress the balance for children, by supporting a 'whole school approach' to food including cooking fresh meals, sensory food education, food growing and farm visit opportunities.

The letter accompanies a new report from the Soil Association called Learning to Eat: The role of schools in addressing ultra-processed diets. The report recommends a number of ways that schools can support children to experience the full joy of real food:

  • All schools should be supported to take a whole school approach to food, following the example set by the Food for Life Schools Award. If every school in England was a Food for Life school, an estimated one million more children would be eating their five-a-day, benefiting their health while also nurturing their appreciation of real food.
  • Sensory food education should be rolled out in all schools, building on the model developed by TastEd, alongside practical cookery and food education across the curriculum, farm visits and growing.
  • Mandatory procurement standards should be implemented in schools, requiring that caterers source more organic, seasonal and agroecological produce for freshly prepared meals.
  • The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) should be revised to source more British, local and organic produce, boosting fruit and vegetable consumption and introducing children to a range of textures and flavours.
  • A percentage reduction target for UPF in children’s diets should be introduced, achieved by boosting consumption of minimally processed fruits, vegetables and pulses. 


Published Thursday 14 December 2023

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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