Jamie's school dinners for all

New rules on healthy canteen menus inspired by TV chef come into force in secondary schools across the country

This week the revolution in school meals which was started by the TV chef Jamie Oliver's Channel 4 series will be complete.

From the beginning of September, secondary schools throughout the land will have to abide by new rules on what food they provide. Turkey Twizzlers are out, bring on the calypso chicken with pasta spirals.

It is a long way from Bradford in the 1880s, when free school meals were first given to the poor. Then, a meal meant porridge followed by bread and dripping. A "simple" dinner was served later in the day. The cost was limited to one old penny per pupil – in today's prices, 37p. The average cost of providing a dinner in 2009 is less than £5.

The main aim of the new standards is to give pupils healthy options. Deep-fried foods can only be served twice a week, sweet fizzy drinks are banned and at least one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables must be served as part of lunch.

A sample menu from one school which has already implemented the changes is revealing. The main meals are chilli con carne served with fluffy brown rice (or, as a vegetarian alternative, fresh vegetable mornay bake with champ mashed potato). To follow there is apple cake with warm vanilla sauce or fresh fruit pieces.

Pizza is also on the menu, and theoretically pupils could eat it every day. It is not of the "greasy spoon" variety, though. The icing on the cake, so to speak, in the new standards is the setting of maximum levels of fat, salt and sugar and minimum levels of nutrients such as calcium and vitamins.

"We want to make sure children are eating a healthy, nutritious lunch at school because we know this helps their concentration in the classroom and their behaviour at home and at school," said the Schools minister, Diana Johnson.

The journey of the school meals service from 1880 to today has been a difficult one. After a faltering start, the Liberal government in 1906 passed legislation allowing all local authorities to serve free school meals. Provision was patchy. Even by the start of the Second World War, only half the country's local education authorities were offering them.

In the 1940s, it became national policy to deliver a nutritionally balanced school meal to all children which gave them 40 per cent of their daily protein and 33 per cent of their energy needs. This was enshrined in legislation in 1944. A typical menu would be steak and two veg followed by rhubarb crumble.

This largely remained in force until 1980, when Margaret Thatcher – known as the "milk snatcher" when she withdrew free milk from all children over seven in 1971 – decided to remove the rest of the food as well.

Her 1980 Education Act ended the obligation of local authorities to provide school meals. And meals no longer had to have a fixed price. Many secondary schools introduced cash cafeterias and the day of the Turkey Twizzler dawned. For those entitled to free school meals in areas which abolished the service, a packed lunch was introduced.

Only after Jamie Oliver's intervention did ministers become serious about standards. On the day the television chef delivered a petition to the then prime minister, Tony Blair announced a £280m revamp for the service.

Initially, the drive for healthier eating proved disastrous, with a 5 per cent drop in take-up in the first year. The drop has now levelled off, though.

Will it work? The proof of the pudding will – as they say – be in the eating.

What's for lunch? Menus through the years

*1880 The first few schools provide meals for the very poorest children. Breakfast and dinner were served at school – breakfast consisting of porridge with milk and treacle, followed by bread with margarine or dripping, with milk, hot or cold, to drink. Dinner consisted of a "simple" meal of two courses – probably gruel followed by an apple.



*1944 Legislation to make it compulsory for all schools to provide dinners with agreed nutritional content. Meals had to be large enough for main meal of the day. Typical menu would be steak and kidney pie and two veg followed by rhubarb crumble.



*1980 Conservatives abolished nutritional standards and removed obligation to provide meals. Cash cafeteria system introduced with Turkey Twizzlers and burgers and chips.



*2009 New food and nutrient standards become compulsory in all schools meaning deep fried foods only served twice a week and sweet fizzy drinks are banned.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Senior Research Fellow in Water and Resilient communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: Our team of leading academic...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Needs Teaching Assistants...

Teaching Assistants in Peterborough

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: Teaching assistants required ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker