Opinion: In My View - Health on the menu

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My first few weeks as the new chair of the School Food Trust have coincided with two big milestones in raising the quality of food for children.

This week the Government announced its decision to set up an Advisory Panel on Food and Nutrition in Early Years to assess current practice and make recommendations about whether mandatory standards are required.

With more than one in five children starting their reception year already obese, it's very clear that learning about a balanced diet needs to begin as early as possible in these young lives. The understanding of where food comes from, how good food is prepared and how it fits in a balanced lifestyle are lessons they will take with them right through their lives.

The other important event was the Trust's publication of the the first national study of just how much the school meals being taken by primary school pupils have changed since the introduction of mandatory standards for school food.

There really has been fantastic progress. Almost three-quarters of primary school children who eat school meals in England are now taking vegetables or salad with their average lunch. On average, pupils are sitting down with two portions of their 'five-a-day' on their plates. Levels of fat, salt and sugar are down in the average lunch, and the amount of food being left uneaten in primary school dining rooms hasn't increased.

The huge shift in what's being offered to children, and in what they will accept, reflects the remarkable achievements of caterers and lunch supervisors to encourage primary school children to give healthier options a try.

But there is still so much to do, and it's going to take time. My menu for school food? Sharing the lessons we've learned about its value across the whole health and welfare agenda for children of all ages, and making sure young people have the time and space to eat in an environment they like. And that's just for starters.

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