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 112.

    Well said Mr Oliver, while we cannot have a state that stops choice altogether and absolves parents of their responsibility, it is right that schools take some responsibility for what they sell and provide to their pupils. If kids want lots of pop and crisps buy it outside of school or get their parents to... Those with lax parents/boundaries will benefit most from a responsible school menu.

  • Comment number 111.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    80. feduplittlefellow
    "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’"

    This isn't about 'fat kids' it's about some checks on what they're fed at lunchtime. They're at school, the school is under a general duty of care, I can't imagine why the food they're given can be exempted.

  • Comment number 109.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    We had Drake introduce natures wonder food, the humble spud..

    These days we import homeogenised fat from corpulent Americans...

    Where`s Mr Chips when yer need him..

  • Comment number 107.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    83. We use to do gardening at school to but kids are not allowed to get dirty now H & S again. Its not hard to grow veg even in a small garden, plus you get excercise so all those that say they are expensive grow some,also taste far better so get children to help or buy local.,in some cases veg are cheaper than supermarkets & fresher. Also while in the garden u are not buying choc/bisc/cakes etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    The day i listen to anything Oliver has to say about food. Is the day i give up thinking for myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    89. Billythefist

    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


    Yes, you must look back fondly to the days of Ed "slim" Balls as Education Secretary.

    Oh I forget you don't like "New" Labour. How about Shirley Williams?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    60.Rebecca Riot
    18 Minutes ago
    It's worse than 30 applicants per job - more like 200, when I was looking last year and it will get worse when the cuts really start to bite. It's true, you can try to educate and inform, but when parents have a small, fixed income, something has to give. We had great school meals in the 1970s and there wasn't a choice until 1974. Feeding all well, is a priority!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Goves trusts teacher's to organize healthy eating one only had to look at the audience of the last teachers conference to see what sort of healthy eating habits are practised by that fratenity

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Re: 85,
    It would be really interesting to learn what YOU know about nutrition.
    People who are not experts should not presume to know better than qualified professionals.
    As people age, there is a tendency to put on weight, which is quite different from obesity.
    More power to Jamie Oliver's elbow - As a Hotel Chef, I fully agree with him that schools are not providing proper diets to children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    88. Rebecca Riot 2MINUTES AGO krokodil 69

    Ah...on average 30. Thanks for clearing it up.

    And 30 sounds a very low number. I presume most are happy on benefits.

    It is more an indictment on families if their children rely on schools for a good meal. Fresh food is cheap....

    And Wales is actually more fortunate than many urban areas...

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Jamie, can i have some more please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    There was a column somewhere about Finnish schools' lunch menus. No greasy chips or deep-fried stuff at all. Instead they serve healthy casseroles, veg and meat soup, oven-baked fish, rye bread, milk, etc. I think the Finnish school lunch model is something to potentially emulate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Why should we allow Oliver to push his cockney cuisine to the rest of the country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    @90. sheila coleman
    I completely agreed, but unfortunately not all kids are in the same situation - many parents don't know how to cook healthy food and might never learn.

    If there is one place kids should be eating well, it is where the food is provided by the very people that set health and nutritional guidelines and are in many respects responsible for the health of the nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    AndyD40 says ''This pernicious claim that Oliver demonstrates bad hygiene is nonsense. Shows up ignorance which can't be helped but seems a malicious distraction.''
    Well Well Andy nice to hear that you consider eating with ones fingers & not washing ones hands whilst cooking is hygenic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    'There are a LOT of children who only get one good meal a day and that should be guaranteed by the state. We are responsible'

    Ultimately the parents are responsible, there's been too many having children with the full expectation that, from birth, that the cost of raising & feeding said children should be borne by the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    jamcgibb says - "We ellect people to represent us in this country."

    Pity we didn't elect the ConDems, but maybe Gove could at least help with your spelling.

    Whatever you think of Jamie providing children with decent food in schools should be a basic standard and one we should all support.


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