Children 'rejecting' healthy school dinners

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver led a drive healthy eating in schools
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver led a drive healthy eating in schools

There has been a sharp fall in the number of children eating school meals following the government's drive to make them healthier, it has emerged.

Out of the 59 local authorities which responded to the BBC News survey, 35 (59 per cent) reported a fall in the number of pupils eating school dinners.

Additionally, 71 per cent of these said they thought television chef Jamie Oliver's healthy eating campaign, which received government funding to improve the diet of Britain's youngsters, was central to the decline.

Only six local authorities reported a rise in the number of pupils taking school dinners after the healthy eating measures were introduced.

Although some areas had seen decreases of up to 30 per cent, the overall decline in take-up was just 5.8 per cent, the survey finds.

The School Food Trust, set up last September by the government to promote healthy following Mr Oliver's Feed Me Better campaign, insisted the fall was temporary.

Chief executive Judy Hargadon said: "We expected there to be a bit of a downturn - children are going to have to get used to eating more healthy food at school and it takes a while for them to get used to that.

"Some schools have however proved that it can be done and that children really enjoy eating healthy food, so our job is to help people get through this dip."

Ms Hargadon urged schools to take measures, such as "consulting with parents and children about the changes and making sure the canteen is an enjoyable place for pupils to sit down", to reverse the decline.

"Above all it's critical that this revolution within school meals succeeds because the impact healthier eating will have on children's health as well as their education is enormous," she added.

At last month's Conservative party conference, education spokesman Boris Johnson was mobbed after he made allegedly rude comments about Mr Oliver.

"I say let people eat what they like. Why shouldn't they push pies through the railings?" he reportedly told a Conservative party fringe meeting.

He added: "I would ban sweets from school - but this pressure to bring in healthy food is too much."

But the Liberal Democrats have defended the new measures, with education spokeswoman Sarah Teather saying: "Getting children eating healthy food will only work if schools and parents work together.

"Cheap jokes at the expense of Jamie Oliver, who has done so much to tackle this problem, are not helpful."


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