Rules that are made to be broken

I just can’t get excited about Jamie Oliver’s reaction to LACA’s new survey of parents. So why, you may ask, wouldn’t I want to throw my full weight behind Jamie’s renewed call for universal nutritional standards for all schools? Is this Steve Quinn being difficult just for the sake of it? No, it is not.

I want rigorous, universal nutritional standards for all schools as much as any parent in this LACA survey. But please… let’s at least pretend we’re living in the real world.

As things stand now, all state maintained schools should be adhering to the mandatory guidelines. Should be. But are they? The answer is: ‘who knows?’

The LACA survey makes it clear that parents have no real idea about it. And how could the government possibly know – when there’s little or nothing going on in the way of monitoring or enforcement?

It perplexes me that anyone would make up a set of rules but then not bother to see if they’re being followed. A government introduces nutritional standards for state schools but then doesn’t seem to bother making sure they’re implemented. Huh?

This is such an insult to the dedicated teachers, governors and staff who are creating and sustaining true pockets of excellence around the country. Lack of policing means there will also be plenty of secondary school food providers flouting the guidelines every single day. That’s just a logical outcome.

Do you see what I’m getting at now? There’s just no point getting het up over who should be following the guidelines if there are no external checks in place.

My other major concern is to do with the guidelines themselves, as I said in Channel 4’s recent Dispatches programme, ‘The School Food Scandal’.

Yes, this show did seem to have a strange kind of agenda at times, but it also nailed a couple of important points. One piece of filming that survived the cutting room floor was my demonstration of the kind of the kind of nasty rubbish you can serve up to kids and still say you are operating within the prescribed standards.

So in my opinion that’s what we need to look at first, namely, are the guidelines actually any good? The best people to answer that question are those working in the school food industry. (I’ve yet to be consulted by anyone from the government’s School Food Plan, but I’m still hopeful).

Another of Jamie’s laudable ideas voted on by parents in the survey was the notion that secondary students below 6th form should be kept on school premises at lunchtimes “to prevent visits to local takeaways and shops.” 73% of those surveyed agreed. Not me.

The holy grail for school caterers is to have kids who want to stay on site because they love the food. So before we start to think about locking any doors, let’s make sure we’ve got a tempting range of good, fresh food on our counters.

There’s only one group going to drive the school food revolution and that’s the kids themselves. So let’s set our number one priority to provide our young customers with all that they need to choose wisely and help safeguard the health of their generation.

Do you agree?

Till next time,

Steve

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