Secondary school pupils 'not eating enough'

School dinners Secondary pupils tend to have more choice at school canteens

Secondary school pupils are not eating enough at lunchtime according to a study by the body overseeing school food.

School Food Trust research suggests pupils get a quarter of the recommended daily intake from lunch, rather than the third that is advised.

A trust spokeswoman said it could be because pupils just chose a salad or a dessert rather than a full meal.

But there is evidence of significant improvements in school nutrition.

'Fuel up'

The School Food Trust report said: "The secondary school environment is more complex than primary, and the style of food service makes it more challenging to ensure that pupils are making healthy choices whilst catering for their needs at lunchtime."

The trust added in a statement: "The research shows that schools still need to do even more to encourage teenagers to fuel up well for their afternoon lessons.

"Despite huge improvements to what's on the menu, teenagers are still not choosing food combinations that will give them enough energy and nutrients to stay alert all afternoon."

It added that while the number of pupils eating fruit and vegetables every day had doubled since guidelines came into force, it still needed to go much further.

The report compared the eating habits of almost 12,000 pupils in 80 schools in England in 2011 with a smaller group of about 6,000 pupils in 2004.

'Sweets and crisps'

It found significant improvements in the nutritional value of meals offered by secondary schools and healthier choices made by pupils.

For example, in 2004 43% of pupils had chips with their lunch compared to just 7% in 2011.

And almost all schools have ditched the sale of chocolate, sweets and crisps.

Nutritional guidelines for school food were introduced in 2005 after a campaign by the TV chef Jamie Oliver exposed how unhealthy food was in some places. These were then strengthened and full guidelines came into force in 2009.

Senior nutritionist, Jo Nicholas, who led the research for the trust said: "These findings show that even just 12 to 18 months after the final standards came into effect, as many secondary schools were getting to grips with the changes, the legislation was already making a significant impact - not just for what was on the menu but also for what teenagers were actually eating.

"Instead of 'chips with everything' we're starting to see signs of 'chips now and again'," she added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    I agree with many parents here on HYS our 7 year old has recently told us that if his class is late being released for lunch most of the school meals have already gone and he has to take what is left. His primary school is totally dependant on the school meal provider getting the numbers right but it appears this company is cutting back to save money. I will be asking for an investigation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    My fifteen-year-old son comes back from from school absolutely ravenous - portions are small and in practice he only gets about 20 minutes to eat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    The focus on 'healthy' food means that school menus have gotten less appealing and caterers are resorting to small portions to fight obesity. My local secondary school charges £3.00 per meal and the portions are tiny, is it any wonder kids aren't getting the necessary nutrients. I'm not saying that kids should eat family bags of crisps for lunch, but one or two lettuce leaves won't cut it either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Our problem is not the amount of food, its the time given to eat it. Our school has lunch time clubs and only a 45 minute break, I suggest they give children more time to eat and if they must have clubs, then take an hour in each week after lunch out of the curriculum for them. All my children come home with half eaten food starving hungry saying they didnt have time to eat. we have no canteen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    It's not just secondary schools, but primary schools too. Most days my 8 year old comes home starving, and when I ask what they had for lunch, it's sometimes as little as a portion of sweetcorn (that was Tuesday this week) instead of listening to Jamie Oliver, why don't they listen to what the kids want to eat, and make it suitable for a child's metabolism?


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