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 372.

    When I left school in Scotland 40 years ago, there were almost no obese children in my school year. With no food police to tell us what to eat, how come that far more of us were not overweight?

    Could it be that we walked, bicycled and exercised more or maybe we were just lucky to escape being bombarded with junk food advertising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    360. Skywatchman
    "Perhaps we are the lucky ones in our region."

    My daughter's primary school do decent meals, and from SureStart (remember that?) lunchtime was a key social time where all the children were treated equally and shared a meal. It's incredible to me that any school would opt out of what must be minimal regulatory requirements. What's the big deal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    Jamie Oliver is a celebrity for goodness' sake! If he says jump, nobody has reason or need to do anything but attempt maximum height!

    I don't know where people have been, but we true Brits agreed, via telephone voting system, to introduce a celebretocracy and are better for it.
    For goodness' sake, let's not fret over stuff we'll never understand when we can just look at famous people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    355 AndyD40 I was talking from observation, though. The vast majority of my daughter's class get free meals - and uniforms, and trips, and after school childcare - whilst we pay for all of them. But the parents smoke, drink, buy Christmas presents my daughter can only dream of, go on holiday three times a year, none of which we can afford. Can't help feeling that we get penalised for working!

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    It's true about the UK, there's a deeply embedded culture of envy & dislike of those who strive for and attain any measure of success in this country. This attitude has gained the UK's rightfully deserved international perception of being the country that reveres, applauds & rewards mediocrity. I'm talking about your politicians here not those that take a stance for what they perceive to be right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    The Labour Government brought back the requirement for schools to provide nutritional school meals which were abolished by the last Conservative Government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    351. indiansummer42
    "I pity your kids if you have any but if you don't then shut up! You don't have an opinion here."
    I don't have any kids but everyone's entitled to my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    How many academies have wealthy sponsors who own fast food franchises who produce ready meals and after all dont the markets know best its OK for our health care and police im sure Gove believes it will do for our children

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Jamie may be right in terms of Government standards for state schools, but whilst the menus may look more healthy, the reality is that the actual ingredients are relatively poor owing to the paltry budget available for schools to spend. Schools are largely paying lip-service here. Consequently we still provide our 7 year old's school lunch and ensure he gets a proper, healthy meal in the evening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    355. AndyD40 - Some of them (a minority) probably spend more money on their dogs than they do on their children so it is a good thing that those same children do get a free meal a day. I agree that it is at least one benefit that is targeted correctly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    359. Tsunami of Logic
    "My straight talking & policies based on common sense, the facts & deeply rooted in rational arguments, sit rather well with the electorate."

    Not really, didn't get a majority!

    "However, I would not wish to jeopardise my tax status as a non domiciled citizen, so you'll have to do without my common sense style of gov't."

    FREELOADER lol :-)

  • Comment number 361.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    At our childs' primary school the school meal provider supplies healthy balanced hot meals which are are also for the puplis who get free school meals. If the children have a school trip the children are supplied with a healthy balanced packed lunch. The parents are provided with a menu planner and the children have 3 meal choices including vegetarian. Perhaps we are the lucky ones in our region.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    354 maybe you should join the gov't.

    My straight talking & policies based on common sense, the facts & deeply rooted in rational arguments, sit rather well with the electorate.

    However, I would not wish to jeopardise my tax status as a non domiciled citizen, so you'll have to do without my common sense style of gov't.

    I'd soon whip you lot into shape!

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    351. indiansummer42
    Exactly what's your problem with JO? Is his success the root of your dislike, he's annoying I concede, however, his stance is legitimate IMO if your problem is based on a dislike of personality then you have no valid argument here. Regarding your "egalitarian" jibe: Where my children are concerned egalitarianism is bull-dust sentiment. You accuse JO of cynicism, laughable

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    .... 341. Cynical_Alan === If this is a true indication of your thinking ... then I pity your kids if you have any but if you don't then shut up! You don't have an opinion here.

    As a teacher and a parent, I most certainly do have an opinion - on schools and on food.

    JO is a jobbing cook, no more, no less. Presumably he has a book or (yawn) TV series about to appear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    347. HPledge - I have no wish to politicise this but if the Blair/Brown era was still in play do you honestly think anything would have been different. Like wise some of the other posters making crass comments about Tories sending kids down mines etc!!! Statistically there were more children below the bread line under Labour during and when they left power. Facts are that all parties are the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    344. Chris

    Chris, you suggested that anyone on FSM had parents happy to spend on fags. The reality is that it's a BENEFIT (yes that dirty word) which ensures that the kids get a lunch. And I would argue that as benefits go, it's one of the good ones.

    (Sorry I coudn't quote your message properly cos it's a good argument, hate the Beeb limits)

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    346. Tsunami of Logic says:
    "Oliver is a blithering idiot who should keep out of gov't affairs."

    Another deep thinker - maybe you should join the gov't.
    You've certainly got what it takes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    One wonders why schools want to become academies in the first place....then one wonders why state schools are legally required to have minimal nutritional standards for meals but we should 'trust' academies (also state schools but under govt control) to provide them voluntarily.

    Future privatization are two words that come to mind.


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