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.
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 2021/22, the percentage of children in Reception Year who are overweight including obese, was 22.4%, (22.3% nationally), while 76.8% (76.6% nationally) are healthy weight.
In Year 6, during the same period in Southampton 39.8% (37.8% nationally) are overweight including obese and 58.5% (60.8% nationally) were a healthy weight.
Data on childhood weight is taken from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP).
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
- School Food Standards (DfE)
- Get planting and explore nature with the BBC
- Portion sizes and food groups - GOV.UK
- Checklist for school food other than lunch - GOV.UK
- 5 A Day portion sizes - NHS
- Healthy steps - guidance for schools
- BRIGHT dental health lesson pack
- 'Our Healthy Year' - Reception, KS1, KS2
- School Zone offers curriculum-linked resources
- Healthy eating - PHE School Zone - whole-school materials
- School Food Plan - training resource to help all school staff understand the importance of a good school food culture
- The Eatwell Guide - a tool used to define government recommendations on eating healthily and achieving a balanced diet
- Let's Get Cooking: Learning Network - a hub of information about providing healthy children's food offering 15 training courses for schools and caterers related to improving food for children
Calendar of events
See the calendar of events.
Read about mental health and wellbeing for schools.