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Jamie Oliver has renewed his series of attacks on Michael Gove, after the Education Secretary appointed Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, the dynamic twosome from the healthy fast-food chain, Leon, to examine school dinners in Britain. Oliver, who has been relentlessly campaigning for bringing about healthier alternatives in school meals for many years now, toxically remarked that another expensive review of the situation is really not required and more should be invested in getting involved in the matter and bringing about a positive change. Oliver has also criticised Gove’s decision to not include academies and free schools in the legal requirement framework, which states that school meals must adhere to certain basic nutritional standards, because he trusts the professionals in such institutions to act in the best interest of the pupils.
It seems an odd decision to pick the men from Leon to carry out the examination, even though they do admirably have a good record of producing healthy, tasty food with a commercial perspective, because so do many other restaurateurs around the country. The co-founders of Leon are to chart up an “action plan” to ensure improvements in the standards of school food, as well as determine, more broadly, what role food plays in school life, in an attempt to make more nutritious and tasty food available to school children.
Labour set minimum nutritional standards for school food in England in 2008 – 2009 and spent millions of pounds transforming menus to include healthier options, following Jamie’s School Dinners (2005) show on television. The show had revealed how unhealthy much of the school food in England was. In fact, a survey carried out by the School Food Trust, just a few days before Gove’s recent decision regarding the situation, found that only about 22.5 % of schools provided pupils with the standard requirement of at least one portion of fruit and vegetables a day. Around a half of secondary schools, the survey also found, served up pizza and starchy food, cooked mostly in unhealthy oils.
Michael Gove’s intentions to re-examine the situation is perhaps commendable in the sense that getting a different point of view about the situation will help to deliver a better plan than simply listening to everything that Jamie Oliver has to say about the issue. The point remains though, that in order to improve standards in school food, Gove should not delay the work to be undertaken to deal with the crisis.
In the UK, around 27% of children are overweight, which at the present moment is the highest in Europe. The Government’s Foresight report suggests that this is expected to get worse with 40% of Britons expected to be obese by 2025. An obesity epidemic seems to be just looming over the horizon for Britain, and appropriate measures should really be taken to curb the situation before it becomes truly problematic. Apart from the health problems-aspect, an obesity epidemic also has an adverse effect on the emotional make-up of children. Read more of this post