Skip to main content

Eating Better: Embedding sustainable food education in the curriculum

Films | Published  6 July 2022

The spotlight is on school food this week, as the annual LACA show and forum takes place in Birmingham. The theme of this year’s event by catering leaders across the school sector, or “The School Food People” as LACA likes to be known as, is “Get back on track” with keynote speakers and panel discussions on how to make school food healthier and more sustainable, at a time when budgets are being squeezed and public sector caterers are facing further challenges from rising food costs, supply chain issues and staff shortages.


Speaking on the BBC, Jacquie Blake, chair of LACA said the government’s announcement of a 7p rise from £2.34 to £2.41 for each pupil receiving universal infant free school meals was “completely inadequate.” She said: “The biggest issue for our members is that the cost of inflation is skyrocketing and at the moment on average we are looking at a minimum 10% increase and the majority of products are at a 20% increase.  She added that a number of school caterers have already started to substitute food, in particular cutting back on meat. 

Eating Better alliance members working in the school food sector, such as School Food Matters, ProVeg and Biteback 2030 are all taking part in the event to highlight solutions and demonstrate that sustainable, seasonal, locally sourced food can be part of healthy school meals and that this can be achieved at no extra cost. The other way in which our young people can be supported to eat better, is to teach them where their food comes from and how to cook, as outlined in our Better By Half roadmap, which calls for comprehensive food education, from field to plate, to be embedded in the school curriculum. 


More and more schools are recognising the cross-curriculum benefits of food education - biology (growing veg), math (weighing and measuring), chemistry (cooking) and personal development (healthy diets and wellbeing.) One such school is Mandeville Primary in Hackney, part of the LEAP federation of schools, which in partnership with charity Chefs in Schools, co-founded by Henry Dimbleby, created Hackney School of Food, offering an immersive “soil to spoon” experience for pupils, and to the local community as a whole, in scratch cooking, using fresh, seasonal fruit and veg grown in the school’s garden.  

We spent the day there, filming a food lesson for our new film “Eating Better: Embedding sustainable food education in the curriculum,” which began with the pupils picking fresh tomatoes and courgettes in the garden and then making a delicious vegetable soup with added protein in the form of chickpeas and butter beans. Head food educator Tom Walker showed the children how to make a meal that formed a “whole protein” by making bread with linseeds, demonstrating that nutritious meals don’t always have to contain meat and that by reducing our meat consumption, we can also reduce our carbon footprint. Although Hackney School of Food is a unique place with purpose-built facilities, Tom Walker was keen to point out that any school or public sector institution can take the steps to cook seasonally and sustainably, and at scale: “Hackney School of Food is a purpose-built teaching kitchen. We have our own gardens, but everyone can do it. If you’ve got a simple area and an oven, you can make bread. You can bake parsnips or courgette into a bread and you’ve got food education right there. When you come to a bigger scale, like cooking for volume in schools or prisons, hospitals or any kind of local authority setting, it’s getting buy-in from the people who want to do it. And it’s proving that it can be done and that’s a gradual process.” 

Eating Better’s executive director, Simon Billing said: 

“If we want to teach young people about sustainability, healthy eating and tackling climate change, school food is where it’s at.  Hackney School of Food is a fantastic place to learn, where children are being given the skills and knowledge they need to be part of the solution to the challenges we face. We need more solutions like this and more school leadership to drive positive change. It’s great that our alliance members - School Food Matters, ProVeg and Biteback 2030 are working with LACA members in Birmingham this week.”