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School Meals

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 18th March 2004.

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Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North 11:30 am, 18th March 2004

What steps he is taking to improve the quality of school meals.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

In April 2001, the Government introduced nutritional standards for school lunches, the first for 20 years. The standards are based on the appropriate foods and not on the appropriate nutrients that are necessary to make up a balanced diet. They prescribe the types of food that should be available from the four main food groups and the frequency with which they should be served.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the food group approach is leading to food being served in our schools as, for example, meat or fish, when it contains little of those items and is highly processed? Will she revisit the matter and examine the recommendations in the Education and Skills Committee's report on school meals, which strongly recommends the nutrient-based approach rather than the food group approach?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

I know that my hon. Friend has a great interest in the issue, which, together with the Department of Health, we keep under constant review, and we are working with the Food Standards Agency and Ofsted to review adherence to standards. In my experience, basing school lunches on foods rather than nutrients gives greater choice to children and young people, which increases take-up of school meals and results in less food being wasted and thrown away.