Page last updated at 21:29 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 22:29 UK

Oliver's new school meals action

Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver was widely praised for his TV show about healthy school dinners

Jamie Oliver says he plans to revisit his school dinners campaign because he is not satisfied with the government's action on the issue.

The celebrity chef challenged the junk food culture and pressed for healthier school meals during his campaign.

But, appearing at the Hay Festival in Powys, he said the government would not commit to a 10-year plan.

School Food Trust, set up by the government to change school dinners, said it was committed to the issue.

In a question and answer session at the annual Hay literary festival in Hay-on-Wye, Oliver said he was not satisfied with the government since its 2004 white paper tackling the issue of healthier school dinners.

In the paper the government committed to a new vocational qualification for school caterers to help them promote healthy food and tougher minimum standards for school meals.

But Oliver said: "They won't commit to a 10-year plan. They won't ring-fence the money they gave to it.

The ladies who passed the food through the school gates - that haunted me for three or four years
Jamie Oliver

"I think feeding our kids is the cogs of our country. It shouldn't have anything to do with politics. But I am trying to pace myself so I'm shutting up about it for around 18 months."

He said he had met and spoken with women who fed their children fast food through the school gate at the height of his school dinners campaign.

And he discussed his continuing drive to encourage people to learn how to cook, saying it should be taught in schools.

"Food is so important and we have let it go," he told an audience of hundreds. "Kids should be able to leave school and know how to make a stew or a stir fry.

"The ladies who passed the food through the school gates - that haunted me for three or four years. I had to go meet them. I got cornered and I apologised for the things I said. We both apologised."

Delia's book

Oliver also defended his advertising campaign for Sainsbury's arguing that while he may have compromised on standards in promoting certain foods he was looking at "the bigger picture".

Money from the adverts had bankrolled his Fifteen restaurants which train and employ disadvantaged and troubled young people and had helped to get the school dinners campaign off the ground, he said.

Oliver refused to be drawn on his opinion of Delia Smith's controversial book Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking, which has been criticised by chefs including Gordon Ramsay.

Oliver said Smith was "a good friend" and added: "We all have our different ways of trying to engage the public" when asked about the book, which encourages readers to buy ready prepared elements in recipes.

The chef also spoke about his latest project which involved recreating a war-time like ministry of food in Rotherham.

He described how he was trying to get a message across to families in the town that cooking could make life simple, was very quick and cheaper than relying on processed food and ready meals.

"I am now living lives with people in Rotherham who don't have cooking in their lives," he said. "I want them to fall in love with cooking."

Responding to Oliver's claims about the government, a spokesperson for School Food Trust, the body which was set up by the Department for Education and Skills in 2005 to help transform school food, said: "We all recognise that the transformation that is taking place in school meals is a long term programme.

"After an entirely expected difficult start there's no doubt that the corner's been turned.

"So while nobody's expecting to see a massive change over night the truth is that everyone is completely committed to this for the future."

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