How to promote healthy eating in schools

Schools have a responsibility to ensure that they are complying with the healthy eating standards set by the government. As SBMs are usually  in charge of catering and procurement, it is key that they know the standards and how best to promote them in their school

The government have set guidelines for healthy eating standards for school meals which they require all maintained schools and academies founded before 2010 and after June 2014 in England to meet. These schools must provide:

  • high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish;
  • fruit and vegetables;
  • bread, other cereals and potatoes.

They must not provide:

  • drinks with added sugar, crisps, chocolate or sweets in school meals and vending machines;
  • more than 2 portions of deep-fried, battered or breaded food a week.

They set out a number of requirements for these schools:

  • All food and drink provided in applicable schools must meet the national school food standards in England. Where food is provided by the local authority, or a private caterer, compliance with the school food standards should be specified within the catering contract or service level agreement and the caterer should provide the governing body with evidence of compliance with the standards. If the school provides food it should evaluate its food and drink provision against the standards and produce evidence of compliance.
  • There should be a process in place to ensure that catering services are co-ordinated across all school food and drink outlets to ensure that compliance with the school food standards is maintained.
  • The governing body should ensure that it receives regular reports on compliance with the school food standards as well as take-up of school lunches and financial aspects of school food provision.

SBMs should work with the senior leadership team to develop a whole school food policy; setting out the school’s approach to its provision of food, food education (including practical cooking), the role of the catering team as part of the wider school team and the school’s strategy to increase the take-up of school lunches.

Change 4 Life have provided a checklist that you can use to ensure you are complying with schools food standards and creating a healthy-eating culture at your school.


  • Eat with the children whenever you can – that way you can make sure the food looks and tastes good.
  • Offer a mix of familiar and new foods and encourage the children to experiment.
  • Find local and seasonal suppliers – children and their parents find the idea of local produce exciting, especially if it comes from your school garden.
  • Guarantee children have a balanced meal by encouraging them to have a range of foods. Ensure children know that the Eatwell guide can help them to understand what healthy balanced diet looks like.
  • Make tap water the drink of choice for your school and encourage all children to keep well hydrated.

Adopt a whole school approach

  • Treat lunch as part of the school day and your cooks and lunchtime supervisors as key members of staff on a par with teachers and business managers.
  • Include your school cooks in parents’ evenings to answer questions about children’s eating habits.
  • Give children consistent messages about nutrition in lessons and at lunchtime.
  • Choose school rewards for children that are not sweets.
  • Grow food in your school and use some in school lunches.
  • Use cooking and growing as an exciting way to teach subjects across the curriculum.
  • Offer after-school cooking lessons for parents and children.

Get the community involved

  • Invite parents, carers and grandparents to taste school food and eat with the children at lunchtime and/or parents’ evenings.
  • Encourage family members to help with cooking or gardening clubs.
  • Seek out community partners, such as local restaurants, food producers or allotment growers, who can help with cooking and growing activities.
  • Get local chefs in to teach in your school.

Get the right contract

  • Find an expert to help you draft a new contract and embrace it as a time of opportunity for your school food service.
  • Ask your caterer to draw up a clear, written plan for increasing take-up over a set period.

Ensuring you are complying with the policies set by the government is essential, and following these tips should make it an easier, and more collaborative, process.

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