Healthy eating in schools: guidance
A guide to implementing the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008.
Section 1: Introduction
Why is improving the nutritional quality of school food important?
The Scottish Government wants to improve the diet of children and young people in Scotland. We know from research that the diets of many children and young people in Scotland fall short of national dietary recommendations and many are consuming inadequate amounts of fruit and vegetables and eating too many foods high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar 1,2,3 .
Children and young people need the right balance of food and nutrients to develop and grow. Healthy eating is about getting that balance right in order to provide enough of the important nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals and protein) and fibre without too much fat (especially saturated fat), sugar and salt.
The eatwell plate shows the types and proportions of foods needed to make up a well-balanced, healthy diet. The eatwell plate is shown in the illustration below.
Imbalances in diet can contribute to children and young people developing a number of serious diet-related diseases and conditions over the course of their lifetime. On the other hand, improvements to the diet of children and young people can positively influence their current and future health.
Childhood obesity is widely recognised as an increasing problem. Obesity can affect many aspects of children's lives including their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. In addition, obesity may continue into adulthood and lead to a number of serious health conditions including some types of cancers, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke.
In terms of dental health, Scotland's children compare poorly with the rest of the UK. By primary 7 nearly half of Scottish children have some established dental decay 4 . Frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks is linked to the high levels of tooth decay.
Evidence shows that the incidence of dental erosion is increasing in industrialised countries. This is a condition where tooth enamel is eroded due to acids present primarily in drinks such as soft drinks (carbonated and still) and fruit juices.
A good diet is essential for good health. It is therefore important that children are provided with a solid foundation for establishing healthy life-long eating habits. Although schools alone cannot be expected to address children's poor eating habits, schools can make a valuable contribution to improving the nutritional quality of children's diets and promoting consistent messages about healthy eating within a health promoting schools environment.
School meals in Scotland have undergone a transformation due to the Hungry for Success initiative. The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 ('the Act') builds on Hungry for Success and requires local authorities and managers of grant-aided schools to ensure that food and drink provided in schools comply with the nutritional requirements specified by Scottish Ministers in regulations.
The Act also makes health promotion a central purpose of schooling. A school is health promoting if it provides activities and an environment which promote the physical, social, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of pupils in attendance at the school. This guidance complements the health promotion duty and the Scottish Government's Health Promotion Guidance for Local Authorities and Schools (available on the Scottish Government website). In addition, Curriculum for Excellence emphasises that health and wellbeing should permeate all aspects of the school and is the responsibility of all staff who work in schools.
Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007
In summary, the Act:
- imposes duties on the Scottish Ministers, education authorities and managers of
grant-aided schools to endeavour to ensure that public schools and grant-aided schools are health promoting
- places duties on education authorities and managers of grant-aided schools to ensure that all food and drink provided in schools complies with nutritional requirements specified by Scottish Ministers in regulations
- places a duty on education authorities to have regard to the nutritional requirements regulations when purchasing a place at an independent school
- gives education authorities the power to provide pupils with snacks, either free of charge or subject to a charge
- places a duty on education authorities to promote school lunches and, in particular, free school lunches
- places a duty on education authorities to take steps to protect the identity of those receiving free school lunches
- places a duty on education authorities and managers of grant-aided schools to have regard to any guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers on the application of the principles of sustainable development when providing food or drink or catering services in schools.
A copy of the Act and Explanatory Notes can be found on the website of the Office of the Public Sector Information at www.opsi.gov.uk.
What is the purpose of this guidance?
The Act gives Scottish Ministers the power to set nutritional requirements for food and drinks
in schools by Regulations. This guidance is intended to help those who are involved in providing food and drinks in schools to implement the Regulations. It explains the nutritional requirements in the Regulations and provides guidance on how to comply with them. The guidance also makes recommendations on other practical aspects not covered by the Regulations.
What is the effect of this guidance?
Under the Act, local authorities and managers of grant aided schools must have regard to this guidance when carrying out the duties imposed on them by the Regulations. They must ensure that their policies and practices take full account of the legal requirements and the wider health promotion aims of the Act.
It is important that the nutritional requirements set out by the Regulations are read as a whole. Individual nutrient or food and drinks standards should not be taken out of the context of the whole package or of the duty under the Act for all schools to be health promoting schools.
The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008
The Regulations form part of the wider health promoting schools approach set out in the Act and work, as a whole, across the school day. They cover food and drinks that are sold or served in local authority and grant-aided schools in Scotland and are broken down into two parts:
1. Two sets of standards for school lunches:
- Nutrient standards, which set out the proportion of nutrients that pupils should receive from an average day's school lunch ( see section 2 of this guidance).
- Food standards and drink standards, which define the types of food and drinks 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 which may be provided ( see sections 3 and 4 of this guidance).
Any reference to "school lunch" in this guidance should be read as including evening meals provided in school hostels by education authorities. The Regulations refer to "school meals" which include both school lunches and evening meals.
2. Food standards and drink standards for school food and drinks served outwith the school lunch, e.g. breakfast clubs, tuckshops, vending machines, mid-morning services, community cafes and after school clubs ( see sections 4 and 6 of this guidance).
* The Regulations apply in these outlets when the food and drink is provided by the local authority or grant-aided school or by a catering company or other organisation on behalf of the authority or grant-aided school.
For a summary of the food and drink standards across the school day please see section 8.
To whom do the Regulations apply?
The Regulations apply to food and drinks provided to pupils in:
- local authority schools
- grant-aided schools
- hostels maintained by a local authority for pupils.
The Regulations apply whether the food and drink is provided by the authority or by a catering company or other organisation on behalf of the authority or grant-aided school.
The Regulations come into effect for primary schools on 4 August 2008. Regulation 3 and Regulation 4 come into effect for secondary schools on 3 August 2009.
Regulation 5, which requires that drinking water is provided free of charge at all times, including during school meals, to pupils comes into effect for both primary and secondary schools on
4 August 2008.
Who should use this guidance?
This guidance has been written for:
- any catering providers and staff, who provide food and drink to pupils at public or grant aided schools, but is of particular relevance for those who are responsible for:
- menu planning
- food purchasing and procurement
- preparation and service of food in schools
- staff recruitment and staff training
- local authority staff and managers of grant aided schools
- headteachers and other school staff involved with food and drink in schools
- any other person who is involved in the provision of food and drinks in school, including voluntary organisations.
The guidance will also be of interest to:
- teachers and support staff who want to know more about the provision and promotion of healthy food and drinks in schools
- health professionals who provide advice and support to schools in relation to health promotion, nutrition and oral health
- pupils, parents/carers and parent councils who are interested in learning more about the nutritional standards for schools
- independent school managers, teachers and caterers
- other providers of residential care services for children and young people.
The Regulations do not apply to:
- food or drink brought on to the premises by parents or pupils, e.g. packed lunches or food bought by a pupil from a shop
- food and drink provided in schools for people who are not pupils, e.g. staff. However, if food and drink is provided for more than one reason (for example a school canteen which doubles as a community café), the food and drink provided to pupils must still meet the nutritional requirements set by the Regulations
- food and drink used in teaching food preparation and cookery skills, provided that any food so prepared is not served to pupils as part of a school meal. However, we recommend that the food and drink chosen for such activities reflect, as far as possible, the ethos of the health promoting school
- food and drink provided as part of a medically recommended diet for any pupil
- food or drink provided as part of a social, cultural or recreational activity, e.g. school discos, sports days or cultural events such as school-organised Burns suppers or Christmas lunches. However, we recommend that all those with a role to play in organising social, cultural or recreational events would still consider, encourage and promote healthier options, in keeping with the ethos of a health promoting school (see Regulation 2(2) for the exceptions)
- food and drink provided in nurseries and pre-school centres. Separate guidance for the early years sector, Nutritional Guidance for Early Years, was published in January 2006. This guidance is aimed at all early education and childcare settings which provide food for children between 1 and 5 years.
Advice on children's birthdays
Food and drink brought into school to celebrate birthdays is not covered by the Regulations but as the celebration of birthdays may occur frequently in some schools, we recommend that authorities and schools develop policies on this in line with the ethos of a health promoting school.
Email: Lynne Carter email@example.com
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