A new evaluation of the Soil Association’s Food for Life programme has shown that pupils in participating schools are twice as likely to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
The University of the West of England researchers also report that pupils in Food for Life schools eat around one third more fruit and vegetables than pupils in comparison schools and significantly more fruit and vegetables at home. Additionally, they are about 40% more likely to ‘like’ or ‘really like’ school meals.
The research was supported by the Big Lottery Fund and looked at primary schools engaged in the schools award programme, which is based on a ‘whole school approach’ to good food that sees participating schools provide fresh, well-sourced and nutritious meals and make meal times enjoyable. It also supports pupils, parents and teachers to develop an understanding of good nutrition and where their food comes from through practical cooking and growing activities and farm visits.
The cross-sectional case-controlled study involved 47 schools and measured the fruit and vegetable consumption of 2,400 pupils using the validated Day in the Life Questionnaire. It found that progression to a bronze and silver Food for Life award is linked with higher fruit and vegetable consumption and the school award framework could “be used as an indicator for key food related outcomes and can provide a proxy for positive dietary behaviour.”
Further research focusing on Food for Life commissioned programmes that involve a joined up approach supporting a range of settings including schools and hospitals as well as working closely with caterers, food producers and suppliers, demonstrated a social return of £4.41 for every £1 invested.
Amanda Donnelly, National Programme Innovation Manager for Food for Life said;
“We’re delighted to share this exciting research that examined the impact of the Food for Life programme on children’s diets. It inspires us to do more – based on the finding that pupils in Food for Life schools are twice as likely to eat five a day, if all schools were Food for Life schools one million more children would eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
“The Social Return on Investment analysis shows the wide spectrum of value that can be created through the Food for Life approach with benefits experienced by local businesses, employees, schools and their staff, local authorities and strategic partners, and wider stakeholders.”