School Food Mistrust

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The taxpayer, generous to a fault, has just wished £4.3m on the non-departmental public body the School Food Trust [SFT] for its work in 2011/12.  The detailed remit letter from Mr Gove is worth a read, especially if you were thinking that the government was being careful with your cash, or was in danger of actually running out of it.  Far from it, it seems.  Rather staggeringly, to my democratic mind, this £4.3m includes £800,000 to aid the SFT's transition to a private sector company which will no doubt continue to receive funding from the taxpayer even when this shift has taken place. The SFT must think that this is a great deal which ever way they look at it.

£1.2m of the money is for ...

"keeping the department up to date on key issues related to the nutrition of children of school age, highlighting any emerging evidence that should be considered in terms of feeding children well.  This will include advice on policy issues and nutrition for Parliamentary questions, letters and briefings".

They must be expecting an eye-watering number of questions.

It gets a bit better, however, as only  £400,000 is to be provided for building the capacity of parents, families and communities to influence the quality and standards of food children are given in school.  Mr Gove notes that

"I expect that support will probably take the form of providing simple information on what good school food should comprise and the benefits to children of consuming a balanced diet; along with advice on how to set up a local parent group empowered to negotiate with caterers and schools to feed their children well".

Well, indeed!  Rather curious, some might think, that there remains so much ignorance about "the benefits to children of consuming a balanced diet".   Could this have anything to do with the way that nutritional understanding has either been sidelined in the curriculum or suborned to commercial interests by successive governments over many years?

I searched this document in vain for any hint that what children are taught in schools might have any bearing on "the benefits ... of consuming a balanced diet", but could not find any.  Odd, perhaps, that a Department of Education should forget that what children learn in schools matters, and that there might be a link between what is taught in schools about food growing and consumption, and actual food consumption.  I can only conclude that the SFT supporters within the DfE have not read all the national curriculum submissions that have made this rather elementary 'joined up' point.  I should declare an interest, here, as I had a small role in making one of these arguments.  I also searched for any indication of how all this was contributing to the DfE's being part of the "greenest government ever".  Another no show, I fear, which is odd given the Department's historic and continuing interests in sustainability in schools (and not just in the curriculum), and the key role of food growing and consumption to this.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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