Rebecca Sunter, Portfolio Manager, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity
Sep 30, 2019
Through the schools strand of our childhood obesity programme, we are working to support the take-up of healthy food options and physical activity throughout the school day. We’ve been learning and honing our approach to tackling childhood obesity – our work through this strand supports our programme goal to improve children's health by addressing the childhood obesity inequality gap, and tackle the high rates we see in lower-income areas.
Primary and secondary schools have a significant impact on children’s health and weight. In the UK, schools often have control over at least one meal a day for the children in their care. In the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, where we work, many schools serve their pupils two meals a day, for example at breakfast or after school clubs. Schools have a statutory responsibility to provide food which complies with the School Food Standards and deliver physical education to all pupils from age four to 16, as part of the national curriculum.
We believe that the school environment offers an exciting opportunity to ensure all children can have healthy, nutritious meals and opportunities to run and play.
We have taken a three-step approach to understand how schools can have the most impact on childhood obesity rates locally.
Firstly, we reviewed the current international evidence base with our partner the Behaviour Insights Team, to determine what types of changes in schools are most likely to have an impact on childhood obesity.
We then spent time with local headteachers to discuss the evidence and crucially, gather their insights and ideas to inform the development of our schools strand. The heads identified some key opportunities and highlighted the significant resourcing and infrastructure challenges schools face in creating healthy school environments.
Finally, we funded a handful of ‘test and learn’ projects including:
Our work to date shows us that:
Over the next few years, we intend to scale initiatives in our boroughs and work with where childhood obesity rates are highest.
We will continue to partner with schools, caterers, local council teams and others to support the take-up of healthier food options on-site. Children and staff in local schools will play a critical role in championing changes within their settings, ensuring healthy food and physical activity become the norm.
We will be looking to increase the number of local schools and caterers that comply with School Food Standards throughout the school day. To do this, we believe that it's important to support the conditions schools need to take action.
Using our growing evidence base, we'd also like to work with policy partners to understand how catering supply chains and accountability mechanisms for schools can support and promote healthy food environments. And we will also support a small number of projects which seek to improve the quality and quantity of play and physical activity in local primary and secondary schools.
We'll be learning and sharing more about what works and doesn't to create healthy school environments. To keep up to date with our work as our schools strand develops, please sign up to our newsletter.
Portfolio Manager: Rebecca Sunter
30 June, 2020
Our Programme Director, Sarah Hickey, shares how we’re collaborating with the commercial sector to tackle the inequality that prevents children from accessing nutritious food.