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Nutritional advice served up to school caterers
Catering staff across Scotland will be able to calculate the healthiness of the meals they are making for Scotland's school pupils with the help of new guidance from the Government.
At a conference organised by HMIE entitled Healthy Food in Schools in Dunfermline today, Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, launched a guide to implementing the new nutritional requirements for food and drink in schools.
Mr Ingram said:
"In June, we published Healthy Eating, Active Living, an action plan to improve diet, increase physical activity and tackle obesity in Scotland over the next three years. Schools have a central role to play in helping to improve the health of the nation.
"The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 is an important provision that will help schools contribute by focusing on the importance of diet and health promotion in schools. Local authorities and managers now have a duty to ensure that food and drink provided in schools comply with these regulations."
The guidance has been written for catering providers and staff who are responsible for menu planning, food purchasing, preparation and service of food in schools and staff recruitment and training. Local authority staff, headteachers and other staff involved in providing meals will also be interested.
It gives a full explanation of the requirements, as well as advice for caterers to calculate the necessary vitamin, fat and sugar content of food. The advice includes tips on how to increase the intake of fruit and vegetables; cooking fruit and veg soon after cutting to preserve the vitamin content and limiting the use of pickled vegetables such as beetroot because of their high salt content. It also recommends providing extra bread to pupils at no additional charge as a meal accompaniment; promoting wholegrain and wholemeal bread and putting a bread basket where children can help themselves.
The regulations form part of the wider health promoting schools duty set out in the Act and work as whole across the school day. They cover food and drinks that are served in schools. The standards for school lunches cover the proportion of nutrients required in an average day's school lunch and the types of food and drink that pupils should be offered in a school lunch and their frequency as well as setting nutritional requirements for specific types of food and drink.
Mr Ingram said:
"We know that schools cannot change the eating habits of children alone and the Scottish Government is taking action on a number of fronts to improve the diet in Scotland. But we need the help of all people involved in providing food in schools to work together with children, young people, parents and the communities of Scotland to improve the food we eat to achieve our aim of a healthier Scotland."
Local authorities and schools were asked to adopt a whole-school approach to promoting the wellbeing of all pupils and staff and a framework for health promoting schools was laid out in the document Being Well - Doing Well. The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 builds on this work. This is statutory guidance issued by the Scottish Government under section 2A (4) of the Standards in Scotland's School etc Act 2000.
The new legislation came into force in primary schools in August and will come into force in secondary schools from August 1, 2009 to allow them more time to make a phased transition to the healthier menus. However, schools which feel able to make the changes effectively from August are encouraged to do so.