FOI release

The reaction of the British government to Jamie Oliver's TV programme on school meals

A request and disclosure of information on the reaction of the government to Jamie Oliver's TV programme on school meals and how this has changed the average menu in British schools.


  • Date requested: 23 June 2010
  • Publish date: 15 July 2010
  • Updated: 26 April 2012


Can the Department provide information on the reaction of the British government to Jamie’s School Dinners by Jamie Oliver and how this has changed the average menu in British schools?


In March 2005, under the previous Government, the then Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, made a commitment to transform school food and set up the School Meals Review Panel (SMRP) to advise on how to meet the Public Health White Paper commitment to improve school food through the revision of school lunch standards. The School Food Trust (SFT) was established as the Government’s key delivery partner in the transformation of school food.

Based on recommendations made by the SMRP and SFT, new standards were introduced as follows: September 2006 - food-based standards for school lunches; September 2007 - food-based standards for other school food (vending, tuckshops, etc.); September 2008 - nutrient-based standards for primary school lunches; and September 2009 - nutrient-based standards for secondary and special school lunches.

Transitional funding of £220 million was allocated to LAs and maintained schools between 2005-06 and 2007-08 to support the improvement of school food. In September 2006, a new grant of £240 million between 2008-09 and 2010-11 was announced to focus on increasing school lunch take-up, specifically by helping to keep down the price of a school lunch. The conditions of the grant required authorities and schools to use the funding to help meet the direct costs of a school lunch. The grant can only be spent in four ways. LAs and schools can use the funding to:

  • pay for ingredients for school lunch
  • pay for labour costs of catering staff
  • buy small pieces of kitchen equipment, for example, microwaves, ovens, combi-ovens, mixers, etc.
  • pay for the nutrient analysis software required to assess whether a menu meets the nutrient based school lunch standards and the expertise to operate the software.

LAs and schools cannot use the funding to pay for central teams, training for catering staff or others, or for activities associated with encouraging pupils to eat school lunch and promoting healthy eating to parents and pupils.

Currently, all maintained schools must comply with the nutrient-based standards for school lunches. These standards ensure a healthy and balanced meal. The School Food Trust has produced guidance to help schools and caterers to identify an appropriate nutritional analysis support package for their needs, including sample menus. This information and details of other work the Trust is carrying out is available on their website.