Feeding our future – discussing the Food Foundation and Peas Please UK school food 2021 report.
The pandemic has provided a reminder that schools are not merely places where children learn but are important places for children to develop social skills and for many a chance to eat a nutritious meal that is critical for health and development. This report explores school children’s intake of fruit and vegetables.
National data from 2012-2019 highlights that in England, primary school students consume 1.8 vegetable portions a day and in secondary schools the average was 1.7. Across the nations, on average all students had vegetable intakes below the recommended amounts. Data suggests that over 60% of British children’s calorie intake comes from ultra-processed foods with low intakes of fruit and vegetables where this diet pattern is associated with diet-related health conditions in later life. These statistics raise awareness to the stark reality of our food system where nutritious food can be challenging to access. A stark 3% of (400,000) children live in households who cannot afford to purchase fresh fruit and veg every day.
A summary of the recommendations includes incorporating food into all aspects of school life from healthy eating lessons, community gardens, providing caterers with suitable training and actively encourage parents to include vegetables in packed lunches. In addition to tackling food waste by ensuring all veg is appetising, has appropriate portion sizes with 2 fruit and veg portions provided per meal and allow for adequate time for children to finish meals.
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that our bodies need in small amounts to function properly. As always, ensure you follow a food first approach prioritising fresh, tinned, and frozen produce over multivitamins and supplements. If concerned, speak to a registered healthcare professional. This article covers water soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in our bodies. Any excess is excreted out via our urine. We need to consume these regularly to meet required amounts.
- B1, B2 and B3 helps our food release energy and supports a healthy nervous system. Good sources include wholegrains, fortified breakfast cereals, milk and dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, pork, oily fish, mushrooms, beans, and peas.
- B6 helps to make red blood cells, keeps our immune system working and regulated hormones. Good sources include eggs, yeast extract, soya beans, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, fortified breakfast cereals, meat, and fish.
- B12 helps create red blood cells and keeps our immune system working. This is important to supplement if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet as it is found in meat, fish and dairy products.
- B9 (Folic Acid) helps create red blood cells and supports our immune system. This is especially important if you are of child-bearing age and/or pregnant as it is required for normal development of the nervous system in unborn babies. Good sources include green leafy vegetables, offal, peas, oranges, berries, and fortified breakfast cereals.
- C is an antioxidant important for healthy immune system and collagen production for strong bones, gums, teeth, and skin. Fruits such as citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, oranges, green vegetables, peppers, and tomatoes.