You want Mr Blair's attention - hire a celebrity chef

To reverse the trend of rotten diet in schools needs the will to upset the fast-food giants

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Yesterday, before announcing an extra £280m for school dinners, Tony Blair praised the "remarkable work of Jamie Oliver" for exposing how bad they are. So up until Jamie Oliver's programme, Blair had no idea. All the campaigns and reports and articles about podgy, wheezing kids must have passed him by. I suppose if your experience of school is Fettes College, Oxford and law school, when someone says school dinners are atrocious you assume that means the kids had to send the partridge back. Even if Blair did have normal school dinners, you can imagine him at 15 screaming, "I asked for my faggots
medium, not rare," and muttering that as the dinner lady spilt some of his semolina she'd only be getting a
7 per cent tip.

Yesterday, before announcing an extra £280m for school dinners, Tony Blair praised the "remarkable work of Jamie Oliver" for exposing how bad they are. So up until Jamie Oliver's programme, Blair had no idea. All the campaigns and reports and articles about podgy, wheezing kids must have passed him by. I suppose if your experience of school is Fettes College, Oxford and law school, when someone says school dinners are atrocious you assume that means the kids had to send the partridge back. Even if Blair did have normal school dinners, you can imagine him at 15 screaming, "I asked for my faggots medium, not rare," and muttering that as the dinner lady spilt some of his semolina she'd only be getting a 7 per cent tip.

You only had to glance at a modern school to know they serve soggy bendy burgers that can twist in so many directions without breaking they redefine the laws of physics, and that they manage to fuse with the polystyrene box in such a way that not one of the five senses can work out where the burger ends and the box begins. And stale pizza and crisps and nachos that come with a sauce the colour of a 1960s playboy's settee. Aborigines probably have a TV show called I'm A Tribesman, Get Me Out Of Here, in which contestants are flown to London, where they have to complete tasks such as eating a whole box of this stuff. The viewers sit at home nibbling on bugs and screaming " Uuugh, he's got a Cheesey Whopper - Oh my God, he's swallowing it - I can't watch."

But all this passed the Prime Minister by, until a celebrity chef mobilised a petition. Someone should get the two women who do How Clean Is Your House? to go round hospitals and inform him the wards are filthy. Then Blair will announce he'd never heard of MRSA until their remarkable work, and then Peter Kay can expose how he got to Amarillo three hours late on a Virgin Train because of unscheduled engineering works, and bit by bit we'll get the country mended.

One possible cause for the current state of school meals is that 20 years ago the provision of them was put out to tender by the Tories. And Labour have been just as keen on privatisation so they've left it like that, saving local authorities an average £154m a year through "competitive pressure". So school dinners are now full of cheap, sugary, addictive muck.

We'll probably discover next that the fast-food companies are sponsoring lessons. Maths teachers will ask, "If a Big Whopper costs £1.49, and a Thick Shake costs 89p, and fries are 79p a portion, how much will it cost for two portions of all three?" The bright kid will yell "£6.34, sir", and be told: " No. Because for the next three weeks it's double-portions madness - two full meals for one and a free toy - so from now until the end of April - two times £3.17 equals £3.17."

Now, if you bite a chicken nugget in half, what percentage remains? The answer is "110 per cent crunchy munchy goodness". Advanced classes will be told "A fascinating rule in geometry is that TriAngles Never Go Obtuse - or to remember it simply - Tango - the bubbly beverage that puts the fizz back into fizzics."

New Labour believes fervently that nothing can move unless someone's making a profit. If they saw something working efficiently because the staff involved had a passion for providing a service, Blair would be utterly confused, muttering, "But where does the profit come out?", like an old person studying an iPod and trying to work out where the CD goes. MacDonald's even sponsored a Labour conference, so the state of school meals is unlikely to change much.

They might have to make the odd concession, but that just means fast-food "healthy options". So as well as burgers, kids will be offered "courgette nuggets - essence of courgette extract pulped and dipped in a scrumptious caramel sauce and rolled in 27 different flavours of toffee. Hmm - It's un-courgettable (contains no courgette) - for the garden-fresh natural lunch."

The fast-food companies claim they're only offering choice, but they're extremely difficult to resist. MacDonald's has an annual advertising budget of $1.4bn, and Pepsi spends $1bn. The colours, the clowns and the party areas put the most diligent parent on the back foot, as kids are educated with advanced methods to be wrong. It's as if there was a multi-million pound campaign advising kids they'll never have so much fun as when they're committing burglary. And on every high street was a brightly coloured shop with a huge picture of "Chicken Macnickit", and you could get a "Happy Steal" consisting of a stocking and easy-to-assemble crowbar.

So to reverse the trend of rotten diet in schools requires more than a bit of pre-election celebrity-chef inspired money, it needs the will to upset the fast-food giants. But it's a shame there wasn't a television series a couple of years ago in which Jamie Oliver strolled around Iraq, saying: "Oy, Jools, sling us over yer weapons of mass whatnot will yer? What - none at all - yer having a laugh - 'ere, let's do up a petition, whack it off to the ol' Prime Minister - knock the ol' war on the head - pukka - sorted."

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