Jamie Oliver warns Michael Gove on academy school meals

TV chef Jamie Oliver Jamie Oliver has campaigned for healthier school meals

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TV chef Jamie Oliver has said Education Secretary Michael Gove is endangering pupils' nutrition by not controlling what food academy schools provide.

He said he was "totally mystified" that academies were allowed to determine what food should be on offer, while state schools follow strict rules.

"The public health of five million children should not be left to luck or chance," he told the Observer.

The government says it trusts schools to act in their pupils' best interests.

A campaign by the chef led to tough new legal standards on school meals in England.

Oliver told the newspaper: "This mantra that we are not going to tell (academy) schools what to do just isn't good enough in the midst of the biggest obesity epidemic ever."

'Playing with fire'

Referring to Mr Gove, who enabled more schools in England to become academies through the Academies Bill in 2010, Oliver said: "I have got nothing against him personally. But the health of millions of children could be affected by this one man.

"When there is a national obesity crisis unfolding around us, I honestly think he is playing with fire."

Academies are semi-independent schools so do not have to abide by regulations introduced in 2008 which set out strict nutritional guidelines for school food.

There are currently 1,776 academies in England and more schools plan on converting to academy-status.

The chef told the newspaper the national standards introduced should apply to all schools and said academy head teachers should be given guidance on the type of food they should be serving.

He also accused academies of making money from vending machines selling sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks.

Under the national rules, which are applied to other state schools, vending machines can only sell healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts and bottles of water.

Reconstituted turkey

Mr Gove wrote to Jamie Oliver about the chef's concerns on school meals at academies last August.

He wrote: "We have no reason to believe that academies will not provide healthy, balanced meals that meet the current nutritional standards.

"As part of the broader freedoms available to academies, I trust the professionals to act in the best interests of their pupils."

He said he had asked the School Food Trust to carry out a survey of food standards in new academies last autumn.

A government spokesman said: "We trust schools to act in the best interests of their pupils. There's been a lasting culture change in attitudes since Jamie's School Dinners.

"Heads know that failing to invest in good, nutritious food is a false economy and parents won't tolerate reconstituted turkey being put back on the menu.

"The tough nutrition standards remain in place in maintained schools and set a clear benchmark for the rest.

"Catering is outstanding in many longest-established academies - we see no reason that they will all not be serving high quality food to pupils that meet the standards."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    The new less regimented Academy School approach to education is a threat to the educational establishment particularly the unions. It sounds like the NUT have put Jamie Oliver up to this - no evidence of poor food is cited -it is just assumed that lack of regulation must result in unhealthy food. The forces of educational conservatism must be desperate if this is the best they can do.

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    67 The schools are only responsible for meals eaten at school, its the responsibilityof parents to lead by example home first as they do not go to school until later. Judging by the attitude of parents in Jamies TV program theyare irresponsible. Our 2 boys had home cooked food as soon as on solids, far cheaper & healthier. My grandson is being bought up the same way, eats everything & thriving

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    #48 Blue Haze
    What have the teachers' unions got to say on the subject as they seem to have a view about everything else?
    They're too busy fighting the incessant interference from the 'small' government twit who is infatuated with all things American - so that presumably includes a high quota of lard arses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    krokodil 69

    Yes that is right and not made up. Thirty teen applicants on average for each low paid job in Merthyr Tydfil and surrounding area.

    The average in South East is three applicants for each low paid job.

    There are huge disparities in vacancies and wages across the country, a creeping poverty, which makes school dinner an essential survival meal for many children

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Good food is not just the salad - lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and peppers. Try butternut squash, sweet potatoes, aubergines, courgettes, garlic, kidney beans, asparagus, pulses etc. Good food costs more. We will always have disparity with health, whilst nutritional food is only accessible to the ones that can afford it. Jamie does try! He opened a Ministry of Food (or something) in Rotherham.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    36. Alan T says (about exercise) : " ..... You mean those awful sessions of peer humiliation and failure for those who weren't good at it? The ones that so firmly instilled aversion at a young age and put so many of us off such things for the rest of our lives? No thanks!"

    You've probably highlighted the reason why we are becoming a nation of obese wimps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    What do TV Chefs know about nutrition?

    With this latest attempt at self-publicity, we must assume that Mr Oliver has another book or show coming out soon.

    But whatever you do don't mention his weight gain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    55. jamcgibb
    "Try learning table manners & demonstrate basic hygiene standards
    Michael Gove, the ''elected'' Education Secretary, could propably help you."

    This pernicious claim that Oliver demonstrates bad hygiene is nonsense. Shows up ignorance which can't be helped but seems a malicious distraction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Its a peculiar world, where fresh food costs more than its processed equivalent..

    When I was at school, albeit many years ago, we had a school garden, where we grew vegetables and raised livestock, which we butchered and cooked as part of the curriculum...we also did sports ( yes, sports fields? ) and rode pushbikes...

    Anyhows in these enlightened times, such stuff is not de riguer..

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    So if you academies, even just your own, are doing a great job. You would have no problem with signing up publicly and volutarily to the regulations applied to state schools right? Please do so.

    If not, why not? maybe your argument, like your vending machines, doesn't hold water (bet they hold fizzy drinks though).

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    The education system provides only one of their three meals a day, and this doesn’t include holiday periods. Five meals out of 21 per week.
    So what do the little darlings eat out of school that makes them so fat, and who provides this then?
    More flawed thinking from a ‘celebrity cook’.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    I work in a secondary school which turned into an academy last September. Since then, the school was then selling cans of pop and it appears that the healthy eating menus have gone out the window. I believe the school has taken this action to generate more revenue.
    The whole ethos of academies is money first, student nutritional welfare second.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Jamie Oliver is a genuinely concerned food expert who is justifiably raising a very urgent issue in publicising concerns about what our children eat in school; remember as parents we can't closely monitor that on a daily basis while we got on with our busy working lives to pay the mortgage, bills, educational costs, etc. We relinquish to our schools to do the best for our children with food too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    If you want to cut obesity you need to ensure proper cooked food in all institutions and homes. But the big processed food companies will not be behind this and many working in kitchens do not have the skills. To do this means destroying the ready meal industry, hurrah, and training up people. It will cost but the savings on health will be amazing.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Jamie Oliver is 100% correct on this. We are very fortunate that schools have such strict guidelines unlike American schools where unhealthy foods, vending machine snacks and soft drinks are the norm. It is not acceptable to allow acadamies to dictate their own policy - these places are run by educators not nutritionists. The health of children in this country is important enough to be governed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    @ilonared hope the re-education will help your spelling!

    But snack food and fizzy drinks should be kept out of schools am all for Jamie and his advice for our children

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    9.Peter Barry

    "...How about adding "Average weight of pupils" to the national schools Performance Tables?..."


    Excellent idea, Peter: and why stop there?

    How about rates for convictions, e.g. drugs, public order etc. among the pupils having a weighted bearing on the ratings too? (You'd have to relate it to general levels in the area to be fair).


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