How to double student success rates in schools, whilst saving money and creating jobs.

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You probably saw school meals in the headlines again recenlty as Henry and John from Leon Restaurants launched the School Food Plan.

It strongly and popularly reinforces the work of the Food for Life Partnership (summary of FFLP impacts) and gives it renewed political clout since it was commissioned by Michael Gove. (Isn’t politics great?)

It details how the whole school approach, led by the school Head, can double attainment, OFSTED ratings, decrease truancy, improve behaviour and attention, and improve health.

Basically it’s a no-brainer. So how do we make it scale?

  • A ‘whole school’ approach is critical: it needs buy-in at every level, which is great because not only can everyone can relate to food and take pride in it, it’s also a great educational tool in biology, geography, economics, chemistry &c.
  • Champion the champions: show off to the parents, get the council to showcase the awesome; plenty of carrot and minimal stick is always best (no matter how frustrating that can be at times!). Of course the best way we know of is the food footprint map like this one. (Sign up to make your own for free in about ten minutes.)
  • Work with other local schools to find network and scale economies: building a cluster of excellence is a great way to go, provides mutual support, sharing skills, resources, knowledge; and most importantly of all cuts costs through collaboration.

That’s the “how to do it well” version. What do the Government Buying Standards (GBS) have to say? Is your school compliant?

GBS are regarded as the minimum acceptable standards for food procurement and accountability.

These criteria are mandatory for all central government departments and self regulatory for schools and hospitals.

Animal Welfare

All eggs are sourced from systems that do not use conventional cages. If from a caged system, enriched cages must be used.

If you are serving free range eggs then let your customers know on the menu. They would want to know that you care about animal welfare.

Find your nearest egg supplier:

Seasonal Produce

Where fresh produce is used, menus are designed to reflect in-season produce and in- season produce is highlighted on menus. Remember that seasonal does not automatically mean fruit and vegetables; lamb, for instance is seasonal in this country.


All fish are demonstrably sustainable with all wild-caught fish meeting the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (includes Marine Stewardship Council certification and Marine Conservation Society ‘fish to eat’). Oily fish is available at least once every 3 weeks. There are now great alternatives to the traditional cod and haddock. Marine Stewardship Council-certified pollock and coley, for instance, are used more and more frequently by schools up and down the country.

Find your nearest fish supplier at:

Environmental Production Standards

At least 10% by value of primary commodity (i.e. raw ingredient) food and drink is produced to certified or assured higher level environmental standards(e.g. organic, LEAF ) Many schools for instance use organic milk and yoghurts and, depending upon volumes, can often negotiate a very good deal. You should establish how much food covered by such schemes you currently use then, if this is below the stated 10%, you should ask your suppliers what the most cost effective way of meeting the standard would be.

Ethical trading

At least 50% of tea and coffee is fairly traded


Tap water is visible and freely available and such provision is promoted. Pre-bottled water (mineral or spring) is not included in the hospitality menu.

Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

At least 50% of the volume of desserts available is based on fruit –which can be fresh, canned in fruit juice, dried or frozen. A portion of fruit is cheaper than a portion of hot or cold dessert. Meal deals include a starchy carbohydrate, vegetables and 1 portion of fruit.

Find your nearest fruit supplier at:

Find your nearest vegetable supplier at:

Reducing salt intake

Vegetables and boiled starchy carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes and pasta are cooked without salt. Salt is not available on tables.

Reducing Saturated Fat

Meat and meat products, biscuits, cakes and pastries (procured by volume) are lower in saturated fat where available. At least 50% of hard yellow cheese has a maximum total fat content of 25g/100g; at least 75% of ready meals contain less than 6g saturated fat per portion; at least 75% of milk is reduced fat; and at least 75% of oils and spreads are based on unsaturated fats.

Find your nearest meat supplier at:


At least 50% of breakfast cereals (procured by volume) are higher in fibre (i.e. more than 6g/100g) and do not exceed 12.5g/100g added sugars.


Provide opportunity for separate contracts for supply and distribution; and advertise all food-related tenders to SMEs. Very often, there are local suppliers who want to assist the local economy by purchasing locally. This is often easier for in-house catered schools which have the ability to switch suppliers fairly quickly to suit their requirements, but is also possible for the larger catering companies and Local Authority caterers to set up flexibility within their contacts to enable smaller and medium sized enterprises to bid for contracts. The means by which one of the caterers in the Pilot accommodates the access of SME is by use of an intermediary company who search for local businesses such as butchers and greengrocers to supply into the larger contracts. The School Food Trust guide to sustainability and efficiency in public sector food procurementcontains a section on how best to reduce barriers to SMEs. The advice is relevant to all public sector organizations.

Foodtrade includes a search option exclusively for independent SMEs:

Reducing Landfill

There are facilities available to staff and customers for recycling cans, bottles, cardboard and plastics.

Food Waste

Any contractors must take steps to minimise food waste in its on-site operation using the guidance provided to help decide what action they will take. Contractors should set out what they will do, and feed back to clients on progress and results. The procuring authority must check whether a separate food waste collection service can be provided (see guidance on how to do so). If the service can be provided, while achieving value for money, then it should meet the best practice standard. The department must check whether a separate food waste collection service can be provided. If it can be provided, while achieving value for money, then it should seek to meet the best practice standard.

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