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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 00:18 GMT 01:18 UK
All change for school dinners
group of pupils eating school meals
The guidelines set out minimum nutritional standards
Schools in England are now being told how much of different types of food they must serve for lunch.

School Meals Week goes cyber:
technobabble and squeak
chicken mega bytes
world wide wedges
http (hot toffee and treacle pud)
chocolate log on chocolate sauce
b@ked apple mac and apricot pie
Local education authorities are being urged to keep a close watch on school kitchens to ensure the revised guidelines - in force from this week - are being met.

The guidelines aim to reduce health problems such as obesity and anorexia and decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer and strokes in adult life.

The regulations divide food into five different groups:

  • fruit and vegetables
  • starchy foods
  • meat, fish and other non-dairy protein
  • milk and dairy foods
  • foods containing fat and/or sugar.

They specify how many types of food from each group schools should make available to their pupils every day.

There are also additional minimum requirements, for example, fruit-based desserts must be available at least twice a week in primary schools.

girl eating school meal
Parents are being urged to back up the healthy eating drive
The revised guidelines also allow schools to serve cheese "as a main protein dish".

Chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association, Beverley Baker, said: "Parents can now rely on the fact that wherever their child goes to school, the nutritional value of the school meals provided will be exactly the same," she said.

But parents could not rely totally on schools to provide a balanced diet for children when school meals only accounted for 190 of the 1,195 meals - plus snacks - that children eat each year, she added.

Criticism

When details of the plans were published in July, they were criticised for including chips on the menu.

While the rules for primary school pupils say foods from the starch group cooked in fat or oil - in other words, foods such as chips - should not be on offer more than three times a week, there are no such rules for secondary school children.

Campaigners accused ministers of "caving in" to catering companies by not basing the rules strictly on nutritional principles.

The guidelines become law as school meals take on a cyber theme for National School Meals Week.

Competitions

Dishes on offer include technobabble and squeak, chicken mega bytes, world wide wedges to http (hot toffee and treacle pudding), chocolate log on chocolate sauce, and b@ked apple mac and apricot pie.

Secondary school pupils will be able to enter a competition to design a website to promote their school dining facility.

And the primary school competition involves children completing a quiz and colouring section on healthy eating.

The week is being launched on Monday with a special limited edition website, www.foodisfun.com.

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | Education
What schools should serve
22 Jun 00 | Education
Pupils' diets a 'disgrace'
27 Apr 00 | Health
Parents fear for children's diet
14 Dec 99 | Education
School meals plan under fire
09 Dec 99 | Education
Call to end school meals stigma
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