It's a brave new world in the UK now. It's called the "big society" but it seems to be about making cuts to public services. One of the programmes at risk is Jamie Oliver's noteworthy and respected school lunches.
Five years ago the great one went on a public rampage about the terrible quality of the lunches served to children in schools. Due to his zealous campaign, the hated deep-fried "turkey twizzlers" were replaced by healthy food in schools across the country. That is set to change now, as school budgets are reduced.
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In 2005, as a result of his campaigning, the government was shamed into introducing new standards for lunches ( to include more fresh food ) and banned the sale of sweets and chips from vending machines. The new meal plans in the schools featured iron-rich foods such as red meat, pulses and green vegetables, while processed foods such as Turkey Twizzlers and fish fingers were banned.
Researchers found that it had a positive impact.There was a decline of 15% in absenteeism, assuming that it was likely that children's health had improved so they were away less often. Less children were using inhalers for asthma as well. They found that the students' test results improved by 4.5% in English and 6% in science over the period since the healthy eating menu was introduced.
Despite these extraordinary results, many school boards are now raising the prices of school lunches, some by up to 17%. This is in response to the government's decision to remove the subsidy that was targeted directly for school lunches. Instead school boards can spend that money however they wish, and it seems that already more than 30 local authorities intend to do just that and increase the cost of the lunches in the next while.
Oliver is incensed and said that he hopes the government will continue to invest in "quality school food, and the integral support and training of kitchen staff". He writes: "I believe that any compromise on a child's right to a healthy school lunch... is child abuse on an unimaginable scale."
The government has already scrapped the proposed extension to free school meals, and earlier this year the Minister of Health criticised the 'Jamie Oliver' approach to school dinners. He believes parents should take over the responsibility.
The whole point of the government subsidized programme was that parents could not or did not and the result was that their children were suffering. A number of campaigns are starting now to save the school lunch subsidy and urge the government to support a healthy school meal service and promote good food in schools.