Healthy eating for schools

Children eating together

Children need regular meals to provide them with the nutrients and energy to stay healthy and studies show a healthier diet is associated with better cognition and academic performance. The school environment provides pupils with the opportunity to sit down and eat a meal with their friends, promote healthy eating and help to establish healthy dietary behaviours. Dietary patterns and behaviours adopted in childhood can persist through to adulthood and influence health and wellbeing in the long-term.

School food standards

The government's mandatory school food standards in England aim to ensure that food provided to pupils is nutritious, high quality and promotes healthy eating behaviours.

A child's healthy, balanced diet should consist of:

  • Plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Plenty of unrefined starchy foods
  • Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • Some milk and dairy foods
  • A small amount of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt

School leaders are vital to creating a positive food culture and ethos around healthy eating. A positive food culture together with learning from the curriculum, lunchtimes, breakfast and after school clubs, will enable children in Southampton schools to make informed healthy choices when it comes to eating and drinking.

Childhood obesity

The risks of an unhealthy diet include poor dental health and obesity among children. In England 1 in 3 children leaving primary school are overweight including obesity and 1 in 5 are obese. Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore is a high priority. The number of children with an unhealthy and potentially dangerous weight is a national public health concern.

In Southampton, in 2022/23, the percentage of children in Reception Year who are overweight including obese, was 22.4%, (21.3% nationally), while 76.6% (77.5% nationally) are healthy weight.

In Year 6, during the same period in Southampton 40.4% (36.6% nationally) are overweight including obese and 57.8% (61.9% nationally) were a healthy weight.

Data on childhood weight is taken from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP).

Source: Public health profiles

As a collective, we can help children to have healthy attitudes and behaviours towards food and drink.

By the end of Primary School pupils should know SHOW

By the end of Secondary School pupils should know SHOW

Links and resources

Calendar of events

See the calendar of events.

Further information

Read about mental health and wellbeing for schools.