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23 May 2011
New research commissioned by a leading food charity shows that a whole school approach to food that links practical food education with quality school dinners leads to a better family diet and can improve academic performance and behaviour.
The Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) project was set up to get pupils in England and their parents eating healthy food and learning how to cook it and grow it themselves. It also reconnects families with farms and the dilemmas of modern day food production. An independent evaluation of its work, by a team from Cardiff University and the University of the West of England (UWE), provides evidence that schools were rated more highly by inspectors after taking part in the FFLP programme. It also showed that pupils’ interest in healthy and sustainable foods is having a "nudge effect" on their eating habits and their parents’ shopping habits.
More than 3,600 schools are now members of the programme which encourages them to work towards Bronze, Silver and Gold levels of the Food for Life Partnership award scheme. Over 2,800 schools now serve Food for Life menus which are seasonal and freshly prepared with no hydrogenated fats or battery eggs.
The evaluation of the FFLP project found:
Libby Grundy, director of the Food For Life Programme, said: "The UK already has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Europe, with almost a quarter of adults and about one in ten children classed as obese and a further 20-25 per cent of children overweight. The evidence shows that our programme has made a positive difference to improving diet and this in turn is having a knock on effect on behaviour and attainment. Yet, just as the programme looks as if it has reached the tipping point in terms of making a cultural shift, cuts to local authority school meal budgets – and an uncertain funding future for the FFLP programme itself – could undo all the good work."
Professor Kevin Morgan, of Cardiff’s School of City and Regional Planning who was part of the research team said: "This research shows that ending the Food For Life Partnership scheme because of the current short-term emphasis on cost cutting would have a negative long-term impact on public health and the public purse."
Mat Jones at the University of the West of England says: "FFLP is a remarkable project in its ambition to connect food issues across the whole school and out into the community. It brings together students, teachers, cooks and parents in a shared mission. This holistic approach appears to make a lot of sense for children who are encouraged to take their learning from classroom to dining hall and into their homes. Evidence of positive outcomes – for health, environmental awareness, wider learning and parental involvement - highlight the potential of joined up action in schools."
Monty Don, presenter of Gardeners’ World and president of the Soil Association said: "The children in FFLP schools not only eat good food, they also learn where it comes from, how it is produced and how to grow and cook it. Mealtimes are transformed into more positive social experiences in which pupils can sit down to eat together and learn better manners and conversation skills."
A full copy of the report can be obtained at https://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/14453/
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