In partnership with the Soil Association, we are working intensively with schools across Lambeth and Southwark on improving their food provision and getting communities involved in building a healthy food culture in school.
Starting with a one-year programme across six schools, we want to test how the well-established Food for Life national framework can be adapted to meet the specific needs of our inner-city context, and how it may help us address child obesity. Part of our School strand of work on childhood obesity, the project will help us explore how initiatives like these can contribute to closing the childhood obesity ‘deprivation gap’ – bringing the highest rates in these schools' areas down to the levels of the more affluent local neighbourhoods.
October - December 2018
Agreeing working partnerships with local schools. Collect baseline data on their existing food offer, pupil experience of food in the school day, and food education activities; as well as compile obesity data. Agree staff backfilling arrangements to ensure schools can commit to the programme.
October 2018 - January 2019
Building a picture of the existing food offer within the six schools, and how best school caterers and in-house cooks can be engaged to support the outcomes of the programme. Focus groups, training, and 1:1 support will begin in January 2019.
January - July 2019
Providing in-depth support to senior managers, Governors, food leads, pupils and parents / carers so they are equipped to achieve a Food for Life Award as well as specific support for school-led projects. Input is used to shape the training programme and any resources developed. In parallel, designing activities that engage the schools and their wider communities, gathering their input into the programme through creative training events, focus groups and workshops.
June - August 2019
Refining the Food for Life offer based on learning from local partners and understanding of how the actions they have taken link to childhood obesity outcomes.
April - August 2019
Assessing impact of interventions in the six different schools, sharing learning with the school community and other partners, and celebrating school achievements including Food for Life Awards.
Led by Soil Association, the Food for Life Lambeth & Southwark programme will work to support six local schools, a mix of primary and secondary, to achieve Food for Life awards and embed the changes that make the greatest difference to promoting a healthy weight in their schools, adapting the Food for Life framework.
Through working with schools and evaluation partners nationwide since 2007, Food for Life has a robust evidence base, an awards framework and a suite of training courses and in-school resources that support schools to embed a whole-school approach to nutritious food.
At the heart of this one-year pilot project is active engagement: listening to the needs of the schools – located in some of the areas with highest levels of child obesity and deprivation – and the schools’ communities to ensure the framework and implementation work best for each local context.
In Lambeth and Southwark, the Soil Association wants to re-examine the core elements of the national Food for Life programme to establish a fresh approach focused specifically on supporting healthy weight. The programme will take into account a range of factors including what issues local pupils face in relation to food, how able are teachers to access training or how can caterers work flexibly to provide more healthy options.
Researchers from The Behavioural Insights Team are contributing evidence on eating behaviours and how cues in the school food environment impact on obesity, to help adapt the framework. They are also helping evaluate the impact of the programme.
Working in partnership with the six schools initially, Food for Life Lambeth & Southwark will evaluate the changes that have the biggest impact on the diet and health of students, and use these lessons to adapt their approach for wider use. Learning from the experience in Lambeth and Southwark will also input into the national delivery of the Food for Life programme.
London has the highest rate of childhood obesity of any major global city, according to the London Health Commission. The prevalence of obesity at Reception, as recorded through the National Child Measurement Programme, is higher in Lambeth (11.1%) and Southwark (12.2%) than the national average (9.3%). This trend becomes more acute in Year 6 children (Lambeth: 23.2%; Southwark: 26.7%; England: 19.8%). We also know that rates of childhood obesity correlate with income levels and are higher in areas of ethnic diversity.
The programme seeks to bring together the things we do know – that cues in the school environment can improve eating behaviours – and what we don’t know – exactly which measures will work best for each school – so that schools can have robust approaches in supporting the healthy weight of children in the long-term.
School food can have a significant impact on the diet and nutrition of pupils, and families. Research evaluating Food for Life’s work with schools show that pupils in Food for Life schools are twice as likely to eat school meals, eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day and are more likely to eat fruit and veg at home. Soil Association has found that as schools advance through their awards framework (from Bronze to Silver and beyond) these likelihoods increase.
The Soil Association’s Food for Life programme is the most widely-commissioned ‘food in schools’ programme in the country. Currently, 969 schools across the country hold their Food for Life School Award, which is tiered Bronze, Silver and Gold to support continuous improvement towards a ‘whole-school approach to food’.
In its initial year, the programme aims to:
If this year-long project is successful, from September 2019 we hope to run multi-year projects across both boroughs, working with more schools to develop a healthy food culture, building on the learning from this initial project.
Programme Manager: Becka Sunter
29 October, 2018
A report looking at opportunities for market-based solutions to childhood obesity, focusing on the growing number of ‘challenger brands’ and products and how they can address the unmet need for healthy, affordable food options for families on low incomes.
19 October, 2018
A programme involving local businesses in solutions to child obesity.
02 August, 2018
An innovation challenge with ideas to offer children healthy food options.