Jamie Oliver to the rescue

30 March 2005

The news that Jamie Oliver’s programmes on school dinners have made the government increase funding for school foods is great; ?280m extra will be spent over the next few years, but do note this only brings up the daily budget to 50-60p per pupil for primary schools, which still isn’t that much (the French spend ?1.70 a head, or about ?1.20). And ingredients aren’t just the only thing that need to be changed; the deregulation of school meals provision and the introduction of private contractors means that cooking equipment has been discarded and the de-skilling of schools catering staff. ?60m is earmarked for spending on improving the skills and infrastructure, but that will go pretty thinly when divided over all the schools in England over three years. With admirable gall, the government still insists the suppliers are the best regulators; there is little in the way of actual tougher regulation (merely a “School Food Trust” that would be able to make recommendations). There’s nothing in this plan to stop the outsourcing companies to continue to provide crap food and pocket all the extra money, especially after the media fuss about this subject dies away.

Also, and more importantly, why has it taken a celebrity chef (though no disrespect to Jamie Oliver, who I’ve a lot of admiration for, especially after this project) and a Channel 4 series to get any action to come along? Shitty food in schools has been an acknowledged problem for some time and no-one does anything about it until this series came along. A similar state of affairs often occurs with hospital food – yet the authorities are still obsessed with “choice” rather than nutrition and the quality of food. Alas, no series dedicated to bettering food for our sick and needy has arrived on our screens yet (the singular Dispatches report notwithstanding), and no celebrity chef has yet come to its aid. While Jamie Oliver’s done great things with school food, we can’t expect him to do everything for us.


3 Responses

wasn’t Grodd Lloydman tasked wiht delivering eatable hospital food?

Iain

He was indeed. During my wife’s stay last year, one of the options each day claimed to be his one. However, this didn’t stop the food from being universally off-putting, and I was smuggling in fresh fruit and salad each day for her.

Fin

I work at a new special school. Our budget is being cut by ?90000 next year. We haven’t enough staff and the contractors fucked off after taking the money, leaving the sub-contractors to pick up the pieces and finish a ?5000000 school looking like a building site at the opening. Its been open 18 months and already it’s falling apart. Three other schools closed to merge into this monolith. Equipment was signed and paid for and money taken, yet never materialised. When the Head mentioned “fraud” and “corruption” to the councillors he was told to “shut up”.

We’re cutting the number of teachers by a third, putting unqualified staff in to teach instead and increasing everyone’s workload to the absolute legal maximum and a bit beyond. Oh, and the consultation process was apalling and left us with an inappropriate school in which to house 120 children with every conceivable type of learning difficulty (but at least the architect won some awards- if only he’d stop walking into classes without knocking or introducing himself).

So food then. Yes, for some kids diet is an issue and certain additives can exacerbate negative behaviour, but there are many and bigger issues in education. If its so detrimental, then make healthy packed lunches mandatory (as the most-concerned parents have already sussed out), and spend a decent amount on those with free-school meals. Its not perfect for schools such as the one in the middle of a massively run-down estate in Leicester, at which I used to work, but neither is it beyond the expectations of a government minister to put in enough effort to work out the uncomplicated maths.

And people call me idealistic.