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School Meals: Standards

Question for Department for Education

UIN 118617, tabled on 4 February 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential relationship between the quality of school lunches and levels of eating disorders among people under 18.

Answered on

9 February 2022

No assessment has been made on the potential relationship between school meal quality and levels of eating disorders among young people.

The school food standards provide the legislative framework to ensure schools provide children with healthy food and drink options. Compliance with the school food standards is mandatory for all maintained schools, including academies.

The standards define the foods and drinks that must be provided, which foods are restricted, and those which must not be provided. They apply to all food and drink provided to pupils on and off school premises and during an extended school day (up to 6pm), including school trips, breakfast clubs, tuck shops, mid-morning break, vending machines and after school clubs.

The relationships, sex and health education curriculum covers topics like body image and mental wellbeing and, at secondary level, teachers can choose to discuss eating disorders. In teaching RSHE, schools must have regard to the statutory guidance, available here:

To further build our understanding of eating disorders, the government is funding the Eating Disorders Genetic Initiative study with Kings College London and eating disorder charity, Beat, which aims to better understand what may lead to an eating disorder and how to improve the lives of patients.

Since 2016, investment in children and young people's community eating disorder services has risen every year, with an extra £53 million per year from 2021/22. This will enhance the capacity of the 70 new or improved community eating disorder teams covering the whole of the country.

We are providing more than £17 million this financial year to build on existing mental health support in schools and colleges. This includes £9.5 million to enable up to a third of schools and colleges to train a senior mental health lead as part of our commitment to fund training for leads in all schools and colleges by 2025.

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