Children are still rejecting healthy meals despite more than 80% of schools providing healthy alternatives, according to three Government reports published this week.
A Department for Education and Skills report found that unhealthy food options were still pupils' favourites, with almost half choosing high-fat main dishes, compared with only 6% choosing vegetables and salad, and just 2% picking fruit.
It also revealed that almost one in five secondary schools were failing to meet the nutritional standards for schools and recommended several methods to encourage children to eat more healthily (see panel), including restricting the range of meal choices to fewer, healthier options.
The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) said it supported the findings, but was concerned about where funding for radical changes to school catering would come from.
LACA chairman Vivienne Buller said: "With the absence of any new central Government investment, no changes to budgetary responsibility for school catering and a diminishing local framework, any aims of realistically improving secondary school meals are, quite frankly, pie in the sky."
A second report, conducted by the Office for Standards in Education, said positive work in the classroom was not being translated into practice. It added that meals provided in most of the 25 nurseries, infant and primary schools it visited did not "sufficiently complement" the healthy-eating message teachers were trying to convey.
The report said nutritional standards for school lunches were not being implemented properly as some schools did not offer many healthy choices, because caterers thought pupils would reject them.
The Government also published a consultation on food-related knowledge and skills among 14- to 16-year-olds this week. Like the two other reports, Getting to Grips with Grub revealed that although kids understood the principles of healthy eating, they were rarely putting this into practice.
Later this year the Government will publish a Healthy Living Blueprint setting out what schools can do to improve children's approach to food and drink.
DfES recommendations - National nutritional standards for schools must be compulsory.
- Range of choice must be restricted to healthier options.
- Schools must document the nutritional quality of lunches.
- Head cooks and catering managers must have certified training in healthy catering.