The whole school workforce should be educated in food, nutrition and healthy eating, if the government's School Food Plan is to be a success, according to research produced by Sheffield Hallam University's new Institute of Education.
Dr Caroline Hart from the Institute welcomed the School Food Plan which aims to encourage healthier eating in schools. However, as well as school cooks, she argued that teachers and wider school staff should be educated in healthy eating practices as part of their continuing professional development (CPD).
This would underpin a 'whole school' approach to understand the new food standards which apply to food in schools, encourage pupils to take up school meals and study cooking in the curriculum, and work in partnership with parents to support children in making healthy choices.
Dr Hart said:
"Achieving the objectives of the School Food Plan requires a whole workforce education strategy, not only one that engages school cooks and headteachers. Food practices around choice and consumption need to engage parents, teachers and pupils and be handled sensitively within local cultural contexts.
"University departments engaged in teacher education, such as the Sheffield Institute for Education, are ideally placed to build appropriate training into their teacher education programmes."
Dr Hart has been researching food practices in 20 primary schools across Sheffield over the past year, and has recently been invited to join the Sheffield Food Executive to advise on how to include schools in a new city-wide food strategy.
Other recommendations made by Dr Hart include:
- school-based 'food champions' to encourage pupils to eat well and their parents to support them in making healthy food choices;
- self-evaluation tools to help schools track their progress in delivering healthier food choices;
- incorporating the School Food Plan into wider local authority food strategies delivered under the new Health & Wellbeing Boards; and
- school allotments either on-site or in partnership with local public allotments to encourage a ‘field to plate’ understanding for pupils about how food is produced and prepared.
The Sheffield Institute for Education holds its formal launch at Sheffield Hallam University on Tuesday 20 May with a national conference of leaders and practitioners in the education system.
A full day of debates, workshops and discussions, with 300 delegates will examine the school-led system, and its impact on children, youth services, schools and universities across the country. A few places remain available at: https://www.shu.ac.uk/