Better eating, better learning: a new context for school food

Refreshed guidance to support schools and all stakeholders to work in partnership to make improvements in school food and food education.

Section 1 Forewords

Ministerial and COSLA Foreword

National and local government are united in our commitment to improving the wellbeing of our children and young people to give them the best possible start in life. Huge benefits accrue from investing in children and young people from an early stage. The short-term dividends we reap include happier and healthier children and young people ready to learn and able to play a positive role in their schools and communities. The longer term rewards are in the health, wellbeing, and economic prosperity of Scotland. What our children and young people eat and, importantly, their understanding of how it arrives on their plate and the impact it has on their health are an important part of this.

So food in school matters - both what children and young people eat and what they learn about. It impacts upon their health, on their education, and on the environment and economy. That is why national and local government have invested so heavily in school food over the past decade. Since the launch of Hungry for Success in 2003, food served in schools has had to meet significantly higher standards. These standards are enacted in legislation which makes health promotion a central purpose of schooling. And with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, we have made great strides in providing children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need to help them make better lifestyle choices. We want to build on this progress so that food in schools is properly recognised and understood as a substantial financial and ethical investment which supports young people into adulthood.

So why 'A New Context'?

  • The health and wellbeing of our young people is a responsibility we all share. A decade on from Hungry for Success we need the renewed commitment of teachers, parents, children and young people, caterers and suppliers, working in partnership, at national and local level, to ensure that Scotland's children and young people enjoy a healthier, thriving, sustainable and resilient food future.
  • With the environmental challenges we face in the coming years, it is clear that transformational change is essential if we are to become a sustainable food nation. Food production methods and what we eat are central to achieving this.
  • Health challenges persist. It is crucially important that we develop a nation of knowledgeable consumers who, through making the right food choices, will reap benefits for their own health while supporting our goal to become a sustainable nation.
  • School food and food education present significant opportunities to rise to these health, environmental and educational challenges, but these opportunities are not always obvious. Better Eating, Better Learning sets school food in a strategic context and by doing so shows how everyone involved in school food can have an impact.

At a local and national level, we need to face the challenges and grasp the opportunities by:

  • using school food as part of a whole school approach to support learning as an integral part of the curriculum;
  • serving school food that drives dietary behaviour change and supports our health and environmental goals;
  • championing fresh, seasonal, local and sustainable produce;
  • celebrating provenance and ethical sourcing;
  • inspiring future generations who are proud of, and contribute to, Scotland's ambition as the 'Land of Food and Drink';
  • ensuring that school food provides affordable access to good nutrition for all children and young people and optimising the uptake of school meals, in particular for those children and young people receiving free meals; and
  • supporting children and young people, their parents, teaching and catering staff, to enjoy and value school food for its quality, provenance and appeal and in doing so to enable them to understand the relationship between school food, culture, health and the environment.

This document sets the agenda for the coming decade to help drive further improvements to school food and children and young people's learning about food and its contribution to their overall health and wellbeing. Let us ensure that school food takes its place at the forefront of a revolution in Scotland's food culture.

Michael Russell Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

Michael Russell Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning signature

Michael Russell

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

Richard Lochhead Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment

Richard Lochhead Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment signature

Richard Lochhead

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment

Douglas Chapman Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA

Douglas Chapman Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA signature

Douglas Chapman

Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA

Foreword - Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland

Mary Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Our children are growing up in Scotland in the 21st century and like many in this traditional 18th century poem, and as many a parent can testify, they are still contrary and fickle, particularly in their eating habits and preferences. Poor nutrition and a limited palate in early childhood are factors in the continuing health problems presented by obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

However we should pause and congratulate the work all those involved with schools have undertaken since Hungry for Success was first published. The Academies of Medical Royal Colleges in their unprecedented report Measuring Up - the medical profession's prescription to the obesity crisis [1] , praised Scotland's approach of mandatory food and nutrition-based standards applied to all schools and rightly noted that these standards are a powerful success story in changing children's eating habits.

School can play a fundamental part in developing a child's relationship with food, not only in understanding where it comes from and its health benefits but also in providing the opportunity to experiment and to taste. This becomes of paramount importance in less advantaged households where concern over waste, hunger and expense can have such a limiting effect.

At this present moment in time school represents one of the best opportunities to educate children in healthy lifestyles and change behaviour in a positive, meaningful way. We need to acknowledge that this presents a challenge to councillors and local authorities as they fund and plan such services, to all the school staff whether they teach or support the provision of education and life in their school community, but most of all to parents to investigate, understand, and support the provision of these services.

On this issue, rather like that other childhood chore of brushing your teeth, once learned we cannot say it has been achieved and leave it, we have to continue because it is good for all of us - a doctor told you so!

Sir Harry Burns Chief Medical Officer for Scotland

Sir Harry Burns

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland


Email: Lynne Carter,

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