School Food Matters is proud to join the CEE Bill Alliance. We are a charity that exists to teach children about food and improve their access to healthy, sustainable food during their time at school. We work in three areas: food education, food policy and food provision.
Being planet-friendly has been a core principle of our work over the past 14 years. In fact, the charity began in 2007 with a campaign to transform school food in one London borough from a frozen ready-meal, made in a factory to freshly prepared lunches cooked from scratch on site. We successfully converted 38 primary schools to a menu made from high quality ingredients meeting the Soil Association’s Gold catering standards.
We continue to teach children about the impact of their food choices, and campaign for more environmentally and ecologically sound food systems. Joining the CEE Bill Alliance is an acknowledgement of the role we can play in combatting the climate emergency facing us, and a pledge to do our bit in campaigning on such important issues.
In schools, we deliver programmes such as the Honeybee Programme, inviting schools to host a visit from a beekeeper, organise bee-friendly planting sessions with a gardener, and apply for a grant to set up their own beekeeping project at school. We also distribute School Garden Grants in inner-city London for schools to build growing plots on their outdoor spaces.
A flagship programme we are currently running in partnership with Impact on Urban Health is Healthy Zones, in Lambeth and Southwark. This five-year programme aims to tackle childhood obesity by working in schools to create sustained changes to the school food environment. We use the rich experiences working in schools to inform our campaigns and policy development.
Collaborating with other organisations, we have worked on campaigns to improve the quality and accessibility of school food. Lobbying policy and decision makers to improve school food has seen improvements in standards and extension of free school meal (FSM) provision to children from families with no recourse to public funds. But the work continues as we ask the Government to undertake a comprehensive review of all school food policy and further extend eligibility for free school meals.
In response to the increasing food insecurity during the pandemic, we pivoted our work to providing food in the form of Breakfast Boxes. This emergency response saw us deliver over one million nutritious breakfasts to children in Lambeth and Southwark during school closures and holidays. This May half term, we continue the Breakfast Boxes programme but this time in Tower Hamlets. Our work during the pandemic has reinforced our calls for extending FSM provision as we saw one in four children who needed support were ineligible for FSM.
We look forward to working with the CEE Bill Alliance and fellow members in order to see legislation that ensures healthier children living on a healthier planet.
Sean Turner is the Policy Officer for School Food Matters