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We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

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We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

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We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

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We operate in more than 50 countries around the world. If your country is not on the list, please refer to our global contacts.

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How good school food and education can help tackle childhood obesity

Linda Cregan, Food Services Director – ISS Education, discusses how a Healthy Schools Rating System could help improve the health of the nation’s children
In March 2019, School Food Matters published their findings from a consultation with parents, school staff and governors following the Government proposal for a Healthy Schools Rating System (HSRS), as part of their Childhood Obesity Plan.
 
The fight against poor nutrition in schools has been going on since trailblazers like Jeanette Orrey, former dinner lady and co-founder of Food for Life, started taking a stand against processed, pre-prepared meals. As former CEO at the Children's Food Trust, Co-Chair of the School Food Plan Alliance and member of the School Food Plan expert panel, I been involved in the great changes that have occurred in school food over the years. Despite vast improvements in the last decade, the UK still has the highest rates of obesity for 15- to 19-year-olds among 14 European comparator countries [1]. It’s clear that further action needs to be taken to prevent children growing into unhealthy adults.

In my role as Food Services Director for ISS Education, I oversee a team of chefs and nutritionists who use their expertise to create, test and develop recipes and menus which are nutritionally balanced in line with the School Food Standards. Plenty of research has shown that well-nourished children perform better at school [2], which is a no-brainer really. In my position, I can help ensure that the children we serve receive a good, well-rounded meal once a day. With the help of our ISS Food Ambassadors, we supplement what the schools teach by delivering food education where possible. Really this is just a drop in the ocean in terms of ensuring the children of the nation grow into healthy adults and go on to raise healthy children themselves. 

Collectively, we need to find a way to ensure children are equipped with the knowledge they need to make the best choices for their health. Many schools have excellent engagement with health and wellbeing but bringing in a HSRS could be the answer to ensure schools are doing enough across the board. Of the people asked in a survey by School Food Matters, 97% were in favour of a HSRS, with 76% of parents agreeing that it should be monitored by Ofsted [3].  By tasking Ofsted with adding a healthy school element to audits, schools would need to bring health and wellbeing in line with the rest of the curriculum. Whether it’s Ofsted or not, an official auditing process would bring about measurable standards and accountability. 

Our education system could do a lot towards undoing the damage caused by the way that we work, shop, cook and eat, all of which has changed so much over the years. We all move less, work longer and have less time for real food. As we move increasingly towards a digital world, we must ensure that we try and give our children the best chance to be healthy. There’s no stopping them using smartphones, tablets and social media, but we can encourage them towards a balanced lifestyle that includes healthy food, exercise and good mental health.

[1] https://www.schoolfoodmatters.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20HSRS%20Report%20March%2019_0.pdf#overlay-context=healthy-schools-rating-scheme 

[2] http://www.schoolfoodplan.com/plan/ 

[3] https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/research/international-comparisons-of-health-and-wellbeing-in-adolescence-and-early-adulthood 

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Have you got any ideas or suggestions on other steps school food providers can take to help support healthy schools? 

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