Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Back to school - and the best school dinners yet

Pupils across Brighton and Hove will today be returning to school guaranteed fresh, seasonal and sustainable school dinners, thanks to the work of my Green Party councillor colleague Paul Steedman.

Following Paul’s campaign, Brighton and Hove City Council has this month for the first time signed up to Food For Life’s ‘Bronze Standard.’

To achieve the Bronze Standard, schools must meet several criteria when it comes to both learning about and eating food.

These include:

- ensuring school dinners are at least 75 per cent freshly prepared.

- giving every pupil the opportunity to visit a farm during his or her time at school

- serving only ‘farm assured’ meat and eggs from cage free hens at dinnertime

Signing up to the Food For Life challenge is great news on so many fronts – not only does it mean pupils will eat healthier food – they will also learn more about where it comes from.

School dinners help shape the appetites of our children for the rest of their lives, and making sure they are given good quality food can set them up for healthier and happier lifestyles as adults.

The Bronze standard will also ensure parents are involved – they will now have the opportunity to feedback on their children’s dinners, and even attend school lunches. I'm very excited at the prospect of attending one at Coombe Road, where my littl'un Sammy will be starting next week...

But this is just the beginning, and it’s not just our school children and their families who will benefit. If, as I very much hope, Brighton and Hove moves onto the Silver Standard, all our schools will provide a range of locally sourced items on their dinner menus.

This is good news not just for local farmers, but also for the planet. Fewer miles between spade and plate means less greenhouse gas emissions. This is not a small change - food is thought to produce almost 20 per cent of the UK’s annual greenhouse gases.

Ensuring schools dinners are fresh, healthy and sustainable is of benefit to our children, our economy and our planet. It’s no wonder some local authorities have seen a rise to 80% of students having school meals as a result of Food for Life.

I am delighted Brighton and Hove Council has agreed to adopt the Bronze standard, and hope this is the first of many such common sense policies that can make a real difference.

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