Healthy food = a healthy workforce

Teachers need good nutrition at school too, says Andy Badger

It was 10 years ago that Jamie banned the turkey twizzler, following his groundbreaking Channel 4 documentary, Jamie’s School Dinners, and since then, it’s fair to say that school meals have been high up on the news agenda. And with good reason, as a healthy, balanced diet can not only help children’s physical development, but their concentration levels too, allowing them to focus on their studies and achieve better grades. Eighty-five per cent of primary schoolchildren now enjoy nutritious lunches, since the free school meals policy was introduced by Nick Clegg last year.

But let’s not forget about teachers. Long days, gruelling schedules, taking work home to mark and commuting, means that it’s just as important for teachers to eat a balanced meal at school every day to ensure they are delivering the best teaching standards possible.

According to a report released this month by the BHA, the biggest area of growth within the foodservice industry, is the trend for healthier options. In fact, 100% of foodservice businesses surveyed by the BHA disclosed that they are providing healthier alternatives and lower calorie options on their menus where possible: 94% reducing salt; 88% including more fruit and vegetables; 81% reducing sugar; 88% training chefs on cooking healthy options and 69% including calorie labelling.  

The results are interesting because they show a new trend emerging, whereby employers are investing in and taking responsibility for their workforce’s diets – and it’s about time. Recent reports from the British Heart Foundation claim that more than two-fifths of workers in the UK believe that their job is having a negative effect on their lives, with stressful working conditions leading to poor lifestyle choices such as eating unhealthily, drinking and smoking excessively and avoiding exercise. Worryingly, a third of workers surveyed said that they have put on weight directly because of their work and it’s no wonder with 60% of employees regularly doing unpaid overtime – meaning that they are not taking their full lunch-breaks, spending less time at home in the evenings preparing homemade meals and either too tired or time-deprived to exercise.

Diseases linked to an unhealthy lifestyle include type 2 diabetes, heart disease and liver disease – not to mention high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and even some cancers – which serves as a stark warning for employers.

Health and wellness may be having a bit of a moment in the spotlight, but with the latest figures showing that 82% of companies with wellness programmes see reduced sickness absence and a 15% increase in output – it’s much more than a passing fad. 

As teachers are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, working almost 13 extra hours per week, it really is essential that schools ensure they are doing all they can to make heathier alternatives available for staff, as well as pupils. It not only makes health sense, but business sense too. 

Online tools, such as e-procurement platforms, can harness a huge range of in-depth information such as nutrient content, allergen content, fat content, salt levels, sugar and the origin of product. All this information can be easily accessed within integrated systems, making selecting healthy ingredients and products so much simpler.

All food accreditations – including Red Tractor, RSPCA and Fairtrade – can also be linked to products, making the process for selecting sustainable and green products much easier too. Gone are the days of having to sift through paperwork or pick up the phone to suppliers to ask all of these questions – instead, it’s available at the touch of a button.

Andy Badger is Managing Director of Acquire Services Limited

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