More children eat their greens

74% of pupils are now taking servings of vegetables and salad with their lunch

Almost three quarters of primary school children in England are now taking vegetables or salad as part of their average school lunch – following the introduction of mandatory standards for school food.

A national study carried out by the School Food Trust – the first of its kind since the Government’s new standards came into effect in 2006 – has found that the lunches taken by pupils in 2009 were healthier than those of children four years earlier.

The Trust’s survey examined what was taken and eaten by 6,696 children from a nationally representative sample of 136 primary schools between February and April last year. The results were compared with similar data collected in 2005.

74% of pupils are now taking servings of vegetables and salad with their lunch, compared with 59% in 2005. On average, children in 2009 took more than two of their ‘5-a-day’ as part of their school lunch, eating an average of 1.6 portions of fruit and vegetables. 

The Trust’s Chief Executive, Judy Hargadon, said: “This is the first time we’ve been able to measure the impact of the new school food standards on what children of primary school age are actually taking and eating for their lunch – and we’re delighted to see the progress that’s been made.

“Caterers across the country deserve an enormous pat on the back for the huge shift in what’s being offered to children, and for all they’ve done to encourage pupils to give healthier options a try.

“The figures certainly show that there’s still a lot of work to do, both in fully meeting the standards across the board and in encouraging children to eat what’s on their plate, but everyone involved with school food in primary schools can feel very proud of what’s been achieved so far.”

Schools Minister, Diana Johnson, said: “It’s encouraging to see that our complete overhaul of school meals in recent years is delivering results.

“We want to make sure children are eating a healthy, nutritious lunch at school because we know this helps their concentration and behaviour in the classroom.  

“Making sure children get a portion of fruit and vegetables each day and the right amounts of fat, salt and sugar, is a vital step towards reversing childhood obesity and protecting their health. School cooks, lunchtime supervisors and caterers should be congratulated for the efforts and keep up the good work.”

The research also found that:

  • The proportion of children taking water to drink at lunchtime has gone up by more than 20% – from 29.5% in 2005 to 51.3% in 2009
  • The overall amount of food that children are leaving on their plates hasn’t increased
  • With very few exceptions, the average meals taken by children met the new standards for school lunch
  • Healthier foods promoted by the new standards, such as vegetables and salad, fruit, milk and yoghurt, fruit juice and fruit-based desserts together represented at 12% greater share of the types of food and drink on offer
  • Levels of salt, fat and sugar in the average meal were down, and the report highlights the ‘remarkable achievement’ of caterers across England in meeting the school lunch standards


Ms Hargadon added: “It’s very clear that we’ve still got a lot to do. The challenge for us all is to continue supporting schools to create the compliant menus they need, whilst still being creative to tempt even more children to give school lunch a try.”

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