Hungry for Success
This is the final report of the Scottish Executive's Expert Panel on School Meals. It sets out our vision for a revitalised school meals service in Scotland and presents a number of far-reaching recommendations connecting school meals with the curriculum as a key aspect of health education and health promotion. For the first time in the UK, national nutrient-based standards for school lunches are proposed and detailed mechanisms for monitoring these standards are set out. The key agents of success in implementing these standards are local authorities working in partnership with catering professionals, schools and the school communities - teachers, parents and pupils themselves. We are therefore setting out a system of National Standards under local, partnership-operated control.
The report is the first step on a journey towards a whole-child, whole-school approach to food in all schools in Scotland. Clearly, this report is aimed at publicly-funded primary, secondary and special schools. However, the approach is one that we hope will also be readily embraced by schools within the independent sector.
Scottish Ministers invited the Panel to convene at the end of January 2002 with a remit to provide costed recommendations and a fully developed implementation strategy to:
- establish standards for school meals
- improve the presentation of school meals to improve general take-up
- eliminate any stigma attached to taking free school meals.
In the space of four months we conducted an audit of current practice, commissioned and considered a review of the evidence base on what influences children's decisions to take school meals, wrote detailed nutrient standards and drafted monitoring procedures for these. We produced guidance for caterers informed by a workshop discussion with local authority caterers and visited schools up and down the country to see first hand what happens at lunchtime. We discussed water provision in schools with Scottish Executive environment policy officials in the context of European Union policy, informed ourselves of school estates policy and relevant aspects of the Modernising Government Fund. We also grappled with the difficult and elusive issue of stigma to come up with practical proposals based on existing good practice and sound evidence. We published our interim report in June 2002. Following a three-month consultation period with a wide range of stakeholders we were very heartened not only by the scale of response, but also by the overwhelming support for our recommendations. Both reinforce our view that people recognise the need for, and are ready to embrace, change. This final report is substantially unchanged, but seeks to provide further clarity on aspects of the proposals that respondents were seeking.
Our proposals stem from a number of basic underlying principles on which rests our vision for the provision of food in Scottish schools. Since we want the very best of health, education and social justice for our children, the proposals are challenging and aspirational. However, we have also identified practical mechanisms for putting these into practice so that schools can begin, or in many cases continue, the journey towards providing attractive, nutritionally balanced meals to all children who wish to take them, without fear of stigma, in an environment that is welcoming, comfortable and fun. After all, what good will it do us to provide the healthiest food in Scotland if nobody comes?
Chairman of the Expert Panel on School Meals