School Food Plan hails Food for Life Partnership track record in over 4,500 schools

12 July 2013

Today’s School Food Plan has brought the importance of nutritious and healthy school food firmly back into focus. It is right that the plan highlights the importance of food education in supporting the take-up of healthy, fresh school meals as well as a commitment to consult on food-based standards being extended to all schools including free schools and academies.

We welcome the allocated £11million of funding to help expert organisations like the Soil Association-led Food for Life Partnership support Head Teachers to adopt a whole school approach that puts food, including cooking and growing, at the heart of school life and increases the take-up of healthy school meals.

The Plan cites [1] the success of the Food for Life Partnership, a national programme supported by the BIG Lottery Fund, already working with over 4,500 schools in England, in turning school food around. Independent evaluation has shown that schools working with the Food for Life Partnership increased their meal take-up by 5 percentage points over two years [2]. Furthermore, the Food for Life Catering Mark supports the provision of over 640,000 [3] healthy and nutritious school meals a day, the impact of which should not be underestimated.

Director of the Food for Life Partnership, Soil Association Libby Grundy says:

“All children deserve to have access to fresh, healthy school meals and the opportunity to develop the key life skills that will allow them to make good choices around food. This is ever more important as complex issues such as childhood obesity and food poverty continue to be major concerns.

“The actions proposed in the School Food Plan have the potential to allow us to significantly extend the proven benefits of healthy meals and food education to a far greater number of children and young people in England. The Food for Life Partnership team looks forward to playing an active role in ensuring the actions are brought to life”

Some are questioning whether hard-pressed Head Teachers can rise to this challenge. Rachel Chahal, Head Teacher at Food for Life Partnership Gold awarded school the Oval Primary [4], Birmingham is clear about the benefits that come with improving school food:

“Food has such a huge impact on the children. Learning about what they eat – or should eat – is just so important for their physical, personal and intellectual development. Children at The Oval understand where food comes from, not because they’ve read about it, but because they’ve actually seen it first-hand.

“Our school meal take-up has increased 7.8% since joining the Food for Life Partnership because our food is such high quality and the children have a lot of input. Parents appreciate that and so do the children. The result is the children! They’re positive, noticeably happy, contented and keen to learn. In the future, when they think back to their time at school, they’ll have vivid memories because their learning has been linked to food, from growing to cooking and tasting it.”

Libby Grundy added:

“We are delighted that Ofsted has committed in the Plan to boost Head Teacher motivation by directing inspectors to consider behaviour and culture in the dining hall and the way a school promotes healthy lifestyles.”

Food for Life Partnership school case studies and access to head teachers for interview and quotations are available. For further information, please contact:


[1] Pg. 61 – School Food Plan
[2] The average FFLP school saw school meal take-up rise by 3.7 percentage points in their first year and by 5.0 percentage points over two years (Orme et al, 2011, pg 99). These increased mostly occurred from 2007/08 – 2008/09 when national school meal take-up fell by 3.7 percentage points in primary schools and by 2.6% in secondary schools (Nelson et al, 2009 / 2010)
[3] As of July 11th 2013, caterers accredited by the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark are serving 640,690 meals each day in UK schools. The Food for Life Catering Mark is the only independent quality mark for public and private sector caterers backed by inspection in the UK.
[4] The Oval Primary School, Whittington Oval, Yardley, Birmingham B33 8JG, 0121 464 3248

The Food for Life Partnership has created network of over 4,500 schools across England committed to transforming their food culture. It supports them to provide fresh, well-sourced and nutritious meals and improve their overall lunchtime experience. It helps children, adults and teachers understand the importance of good nutrition and where their food comes from through practical cooking and growing activities and farm visits.

The initiative is led by the Soil Association, bringing together the practical expertise of Focus on Food, Garden Organic, the Health Education Trust and the Royal Society for Public Health.

It is free for schools in England to enrol and provides a wealth of resources to support their progress through the award framework. To find out more and download our media pack, visit or find out more about the impact of the Food for Life Partnership 

The Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark is an independent award backed by inspection that guarantees freshly prepared and healthy menus outside of the home in nurseries and schools as well as hospitals, universities and the work place. The bronze, silver and gold tiers encourage caterers to make step-by-step progress, going beyond minimum nutrition standards to cut out trans fats and highly processed foods, make healthy eating easier, champion local food producers and serve environmentally and ethically sourced food. The silver and gold standards are assessed on a points system. Food providers are rewarded for every pound spent on ingredients that are locally sourced, ethical, organic and animal friendly.

The Soil Association is lead partner in the Food for Life Partnership. It is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Its aim is to see that good food should be available to everyone, whoever, or wherever they are.

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