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Beyond Jamie Oliver

 Nutrition, school meals, and the law

  school dinnersFood can be a fraught issue for children of all ages, for a variety of reasons, including growing up in poverty, medical need, allergy and intolerance, and the influence of advertising, media and peer pressure. A diet that provides the nutrients needed at different stages of development helps to ensure not only good physical health into adulthood, but mental and emotional well-being. Dramatic improvements in learning outcomes and behaviour in the classroom have been observed in studies employing nutritional supplements. Nutritional intervention in the early years is therefore a crucial part of any strategy to reduce social inequality.

The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 places a duty on local authorities to endeavour to ensure that schools under their management are health promoting. In practice this is a wide duty; among its chief aims is to profoundly improve the delivery of meals, and food and drink generally, in the school context.

The provision of food in the school context can be seen as part of the broader obligation on local authorities, in terms of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000, to provide an education “directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential”.

What is expected of schools?

What are the nutritional requirements for food and drink served in schools?

Does the law affect what food children can bring onto, and consume on, school premises?

What about children who have special dietary needs, or who are following a medically prescribed diet?

What legal obligations do schools have in relation to children with allergies and school trips?

Who is eligible for free school meals?