An overview: the Department for Education’s sustainability policy
Tess Warnes is one of the Nutrition and Dietetics team at food procurement experts, allmanhall. In this blog she explores the key themes and actions in the Department for Education’s sustainability policy, published late April 2022. Like the National Food Strategy, the DfE policy looks at the interrelated topics of health and climate. To assess what this means when it comes to the food in our schools, Tess provides an overview…
“As a registered dietitian, I’ve eagerly anticipated this policy since we reviewed the draft late last year. Many of allmanhall’s food procurement and foodservice consultancy clients are schools and this policy is therefore highly relevant.”
Food supply and the procurement of food feature in the policy, complimented by education surrounding food and the environment. However, some key areas which were originally included in the draft policy have failed to make the final cut.
Overview of final policy
The policy looks at ways to improve the education and knowledge of young people on climate change as well as looking at how to make systems within education more sustainable.
With more than 16 million children, young people, and adults in education in the UK, this is critical for developing a greener sustainable future (1).
Some of the Key Actions in the policy:
- Nature, sustainability and climate change to be embedded across all stages of the education system
- Increased access to outdoors via the Holiday Activity and Food (HAP) Programme, with sustainability embedded into the programme
- Improved opportunities for green skills development and associated careers
- Carbon literacy training in 2023 for at least one person in every education setting
- Encouraging education settings to procure from companies that make sustainability commitments, such as allmanhall’s commitment to Science Based Targets
- Supporting schools to buy from procurement frameworks that offer sustainable goods and services, such as Foodsteps offered exclusively to independent school catering teams via allmanhall
- Working with education settings and partners to share best practice for delivering and improving uptake of nutritionally balanced, affordable and sustainable meal choice. Again, the award-winning platform, Foodsteps can help provide transparency of data around this, assessing the carbon impact of recipes. Do ask the team at allmanhall for details!
Is this enough?
The report makes an important step forward and contains many good initiatives. These will hopefully give some guidance and support to schools going forward.
However, when it comes to the food served, the complete omission regarding reviewing the food school standards is certainly disappointing. The draft policy did include a review of the school standards and suggestions around including more plant-based / meat free options in the foodservice provision. Sadly this has been removed from the final version. Knowing the importance and impact on climate change of what we eat, allmanhall would have liked to have seen this included.
The report references supporting schools to meet the food school standards. However, the standards currently have minimal reference to food sustainability. One of the requirements is in fact that meat must be on the menu three times a week and dairy every day.
The food school standards are being reviewed independently which may be why they were not included. However it would have welcomed to have them included as part of this policy, given that up to 30 per cent of greenhouse gases emissions globally are linked to agriculture and food production, with meat and dairy being responsible for half that amount (2). The environmental impact of the food we eat is one of the key changes we can make to tackle the issue of climate change (3).
Promoting a sustainable menu at schools will not only help both the environment and the health of children but will promote this way of eating. Education and embedding such habits and behaviour may then to develop sustainable eating habits for the future. We therefore wait in anticipation for the updated food school standards.
allmanhall recognise that catering operations and food supply chains can have significant impact on the environment. We recognise our responsibly as food procurement expert, to help our clients source healthy and sustainable food. We support schools to design environmentally sustainable menus without impacting on cost and taste. Often only small changes are needed which can lead to positive changes and have an environmental impact. Many schools are on a journey to net zero and food is a key part of this. This is why allmanhall have partnered with the award-winning Foodsteps platform, to help schools carbon assess their menus. For information on this, or on our nutrition and dietetics support for your school menu, please contact the team at allmanhall.
References and citations:
- Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems Department for Education. Policy Paper. April 2022. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sustainability-and-climate-change-strategy/sustainability-and-climate-change-a-strategy-for-the-education-and-childrens-services-systems Accessed on line April 2022
- Murakami K, Livingstone M. Greenhouse gas emissions of self-selected diets in the UK and their association with diet quality: is energy under-reporting a problem? Nutr J.. 2018;17(1):27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5822528/
- Food Standards Agency. Food and climate change: A review of the effects of climate change on food within the remit of the Food Standards Agency [Internet]. 2010 [cited 8/28/2018]. Available from: https://www.food.gov.uk/research/research-projects/food-and-climate-change-a-review-of-theeffects-of-climate-change-on-food-within-the-remit-of-the-food-standards-agency