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Last Updated: Monday, 4 September 2006, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Oliver's school meal crusade goes on
Jamie Oliver delivering his petition to Tony Blair
Jamie Oliver delivered a 271,677-strong petition to the PM
The introduction of guidelines on meals for pupils in England marks the culmination of a campaign for healthier food in schools, spearheaded by TV chef Jamie Oliver.

Oliver started his Feed Me Better campaign in 2005 because he was appalled by the junk food being served at many schools in England.

The resulting Jamie's School Dinners programme on Channel 4 saw him struggle to persuade children to try dishes other than chips, burgers and some other unhealthy foods.

In the show, he revealed how little was spent on pupils' meals at some schools.

The Feed Me Better campaign attracted 271,677 signatures of support for Oliver's petition to improve the state of school meals, which was duly handed over to Downing Street.

The television show, which attracted millions of viewers, captured the imagination of parents and politicians alike and the campaign soon began to gather momentum.

First of all, MPs urged ministers to ban processed foods from school dinners, saying they were appalled that an average school meal cost less than 45p to make - a quarter of the cost of prison dinners.

Tony Blair in school kitchen
In the wake of the campaign, Mr Blair pledged improvement

But the biggest sign that Oliver's battle to replace the Turkey Twizzler and chips with salads, fruit and better quality meat came in March 2005 when Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to improve school meals for children.

He suggested more funds could be provided to equip schools with better facilities for healthy dinners.

But Oliver's campaign was not without its hitches.

It was reported that sales of Turkey Twizzlers - criticised by Oliver for containing too much fat - had risen despite, or because of, the negative publicity given to them by the chef.

Oliver had said Twizzlers were bad for children's health but maker Bernard Matthews said the processed product contained only a third of the level of fat found in a pork sausage.

'Hearts and emotions'

On 30 March 2005, the government announced 280m to tackle the school meals programme in England with Oliver saying the boost would "make a difference to every kid in this country".

Although clearly pleased with the news, he added that the cash boost was "20 years too late" and said it was a shame a TV programme had prompted the move.

I think unfortunately it has taken a documentary, and really the hearts and emotions of the kids and families that I've filmed, to sort of touch the nation
Jamie Oliver

"I think unfortunately it has taken a documentary, and really the hearts and emotions of the kids and families that I've filmed, to sort of touch the nation, really," he added.

Through the campaign, Oliver's profile has risen dramatically with his efforts also being recognised by a number of television awards.

He even picked up an award for the "most inspiring political figure" of the year in the Channel 4 political awards, triumphing in a shortlist that included Mr Blair and Bob Geldof.

But, despite the introduction of healthy school dinner guidelines on Monday, Oliver's fight is far from over.

While picking up two Baftas for Jamie's School Dinners in May of this year, he showed his frustration at what he said was a lack of progress in his campaign.

He accused successive education ministers of using "the same bloody excuse" - that they had just started in their job - to put off acting on his recommendations.

Oliver will review progress in the one-off show Jamie's Return to School Dinners, to be screened later this month.

But ministers should beware.

Oliver is expected to argue that many of the government's promised improvements to school meals have yet to be seen.


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