News Children's Food Campaign

How does secondary school food fare for young people?

New research from Food Active suggests while many schools are taking steps to provide healthier choices, reduce queues and improve seating within the canteen, students want to see more improvements. Children's Food Campaign responds.

Credit: © 2023. Provided by Impact on Urban Health licensed via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

Credit: © 2023. Provided by Impact on Urban Health licensed via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

Research conducted by Food Active explores young people's experiences and perceptions of secondary school food. Despite many schools taking measures to offer healthier choices, reduce queue times, and improve canteen seating arrangements, students are advocating for further improvements.

The ‘Fuelling the Future’ report encapsulates the perspectives of 40 young individuals from Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Trafford, and Wirral.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Breaktime provision is a very popular food service, however healthier options are currently limited.
  • Cost of food and drink is an important factor for young people, some referenced price increases alongside a reduction in portion sizes.
  • Young people consistently raised issues about the chaotic and stressful nature of the dining space, and lengthy queues.
  • Lunchtimes are too short, and many young people report issues, such as running out of food and making compromises on other activities, such as clubs and sport in order to eat.
  • Young people frequently noted the poor quality and limited variety of foods being served across the school day and want to see this improved.
  • Places to buy food on a pupil’s journey to school are generally dominated by less healthy options, and these are popular, attractive and convenient for young people when compared to the offer within schools.

Beth Bradshaw, Food Active Policy and Advocacy Manager, Health Equalities Group says:

"This is another stark reminder of the mounting number of challenges secondary schools face in providing healthy, delicious meals that meat the school food standards, at a suitable price, and spaces that young people can enjoy sit and enjoy their meals with friends. The consequence is that young people are simply not satisfied with the offer in schools, and in the face of attractive less healthy food and drink options beyond the school gates, many are shopping elsewhere. Whilst schools are working to address issues such as lack of healthy options, long queues and limited seating, it is clear that young people want to see more changes.

We have formulated a number of recommendations for action, based on the feedback received from pupils, parents and schools, to provide more support for schools and enact a much-needed revolution on school food. Timely food for thought for party manifestos ahead of the forthcoming General Election in July!"

Additionally, the report includes feedback from schools and parents and presents a series of recommendations. Notably, it calls on the government to review and increase funding for school food, and catering facilities and to enhance monitoring of school food standards.

Responding to the findings and recommendations, Children's Food Campaign Officer Naema Jannath says:

"The young people have spoken and we must make a collective effort to echo their calls. Having a healthy school meal in a pleasant environment with their friends is essential to students' learning and development. We're calling on all political parties to adopt a shared vision of healthy school food for all, including improving the quality of school food and ensuring funding meets the needs of healthy, inclusive and sustainable school system. With a new Government soon to come in, there's no better time for a fresh start, putting children's health at the heart of all policies."

Read the full report here.

Support the Say Yes to School Food For All campaign here.

Published Thursday 23 May 2024

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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