Unlike state-run schools, academies and free schools meals don’t have to meet nutritional standards. And their numbers are rising.
There are nearly 2,000 academies* in England – up from 203 two years ago – and 92 free schools. Because they don’t have to follow strict nutrition standards, they can reinstall vending machines selling chocolate and fizzy drinks, while their canteens can serve chips as many times a week as they please.
Nutritional standards for academies
Standards have been in place in state-run schools since 2006 for primary schools and 2007 for secondary schools.
Which? wants all schools to follow nutritional standards. So lunches offer the right mix of energy and nutrients and vending machines only sell healthy snacks, such as fruit and water.
Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: ‘It’s essential that food in all schools is healthy and meets nutritional standards. Otherwise it undermines improvements in school food, as well as wider initiatives aimed at tackling obesity and poor diet.’
The uptake of school lunches has grown each year since 2008 – now 46% of primary school kids and 40% of secondary school pupils have school lunches. We’re concerned that this good work could soon be undone.
The government wants most secondary schools to become academies, and has announced a review of school food saying there is still a lot to do to improve school meals.
Which? will be following the review closely and is encouraging the government to include academies and free-schools in plans.
- If you’re struggling with packed lunches see our ideas for a healthy lunchbox.
- Are cereal bars a healthy snack? See our analysis of cereal bars aimed at children.
- Make sure you’re prepared for the new school year with our Back to School Guide.
*Figures as of July 2012