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Date: Fri 8 March 2013

International School Meals Day - UNISON calls for free sustainable meals in all schools

A goal for International School Meals Day should be that all school children can have free healthy, fresh meals, prepared and sourced locally where possible, UNISON said today.

The public services union welcomed the first day to promote healthy school meals and awareness of hunger and poverty issues addressed through school meals.

But UNISON says recent scares around horse meat have highlighted that not enough is being done to ensure our children have quality meals.

Stephanie Herd, Chair of the Local Government Committee, called for UNISON’s Food for Good Charter to be adopted in all schools and across the public sector.

She said: “It is important to recognise the excellent work that goes on in schools across the country to provide nutritional meals that encourage young people to eat healthily.

“However, we believe that all children should receive free school meals and that our Food for Good Charter offers ways to deal with some of the issues that have arisen following recent food scares.

“It calls for sustainable food, locally sourced, using fair trade where possible, with consideration given to less meat-intensive diets and excellence in procurement and staff training and conditions.

“The Charter gives an excellent framework for providing healthy meals that can also be a major contributor to improving health and tackling childhood obesity.”

ENDS

For information please contact:
Stephanie Herd, Chair of UNISON’s Local Government Committee 07989 544 162
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877 or 07508 877 000


Notes to Editors

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing 160,000 members working in public services in Scotland including school meals staff.

2. March 8 2013 is the first international school meals day www.internationalschoolmealsday.com/about/

3. UNISON Scotland’s Food for Good Charter is here www.unison-scotland.org.uk/foodforgood/FFGA4recr.pdf


4. The Charter states:

Food for Good Charter for the public sector

1. Sustainability: Food should be fresh, prepared locally and sourced locally where possible. Mains-fed water coolers should be provided, minimising the use of bottled water. Public bodies should produce annual reports giving clear 'global footprint' type information on all aspects of their food use, including e.g. % of fresh, local food, progress on waste minimisation and recycling etc.

2. Health: Universal free school meals should be recognised and adopted as a major contributor to improving health and tackling childhood obesity. The aim for all public sector catering should be to give a daily option of an organic/ethically produced main meal, ideally locally sourced. Vending machines on school/hospital premises should be used for healthy alternatives, not junk/fast food.

3. Social Justice: Fair trade food should be used where possible, with targets of 50% by 2010 where relevant fair trade products are available. Decisions about menu options should give consideration to providing less meat-intensive diets, with more fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables and sustainable fish. Animal welfare must be prioritised, with an aim for animal produce of using only recognised farm assured schemes or organic schemes by 2015.

4. Excellence: All food must meet quality nutritional standards, monitored by relevant regulators. This involves excellence in procurement and in staff training and conditions. The top priority must be the contribution of food to health and wellbeing, with recognition of the folly of previous policies that pursued Compulsory Competitive Tendering, privatisation, PFI and outsourcing - cutting standards and employment conditions, increasing the use of cook-chill and cook-freeze food, and allowing 'fast' and junk food in schools and hospitals. The public must have access to clear relevant information about food, including via labelling and annual reports.

5. Skills: Quality training and proper pay and employment conditions for the sector, including training in environmental factors as part of 'green workplaces'. Lessons for young people in primary and secondary schools about the food chain, sustainability and preparation of healthy meals. Public awareness campaigns on healthy diets, tied in with support to local food co-operatives and similar initiatives to improve access to quality food for the most vulnerable.

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