New school food strategy to keep children healthy

Published: Friday, September 23, 2022

Wandsworth council is developing a far-reaching and holistic plan to make sure more children get access to free, nutritious meals.   

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Next week’s meeting of the Children’s Committee will be asked to support the development of a Children’s School Food Strategy, working in partnership with community partners and families.   

The aim is to help families struggling with food insecurity as the cost of living crisis worsens. Three percent of primary school children in Wandsworth have nothing to eat for breakfast and 17 per cent of secondary pupils don’t eat lunch. Nineteen per cent are obese by the age of 11 because less healthy food tends to be cheaper.  

The Wandsworth Foodbank reports the number of emergency food supplies to local people has increased by 53 per cent compared to before the pandemic, with a third of them going to children. It also reports that six out of ten parents at the foodbank had skipped meals so their children can eat.  

The council wants to tackle rising food insecurity, help families make nutritious food choices and improve health outcomes for every child.    

This will include working with the charity Magic Breakfast, which is preparing a proposal to support up to 20 schools. Schools will be offered the opportunity to take part in a one-year pilot scheme from January so that all hungry children can get a healthy breakfast for free. The committee will be asked to approve the £200,000 cost being met by the council.   

The new strategy will build on existing work including encouraging all eligible families to apply for free school meals and healthy start vouchers, drawing up a new specification for the school meals contract, providing free school meal vouchers during the holidays, and running holiday schemes that provide free lunches for children on free school meals – including the recent highly successful Wandsworth Connected: Summer Fun scheme.    

“We know that less healthy food is on average three times cheaper than healthy food, and we also know that the cost of living crisis is forcing families to make some really tough decisions on what to spend their money on,” said cabinet member for children Cllr Kate Stock.    

“We cannot have children going hungry. That’s why we’re taking a whole system approach to this, recognising that food insecurity is a result of a variety of issues. Over the coming weeks we will be developing the strategy alongside our partners and will be talking to schools about working with Magic Breakfast and improving school lunches so that they use fresh, seasonal produce and produce real food with no pre-prepared, processed ingredients.   

“In doing so we hope to prevent a future serious health crisis and give our children the nutrition they need to learn, grow and live their best lives.”