Spotlight on Food for Life Partnership: Promoting Healthy Eating in England’s Schools

June 22, 2011

by Austin Sears, HSC intern

Here at Healthy Schools Campaign, we love reading about the things that people are doing to create healthy school environments for children. It is always interesting to see how other places address student health and wellness. BBC recently published an article about an England-based organization, Food for Life Partnership (FFLP), that is currently making a difference in the way that people think about and interact with food.

FFLP puts emphasis on consuming seasonal, local and organic food and provides resources on ways to cook and grow fresh food. The organization encourages student, parent and community organizations to get involved in growing food locally and finding healthy ways to prepare it. FFLP awards school achievement at three different levels, encouraging those involved to continue working to reach the highest possible distinction.

The University of West England (UWE) analyzed 48 elementary schools out of the 3,600 participating elementary and middle schools involved with FFLP. Their findings showed that more than one third of the schools that were analyzed were given an outstanding review by Olfsted (an organization that inspects and regulates school services to document positive changes), compared to the 17.3 percent that received an outstanding review prior to joining the FFLP. The study also found that the percentage of children eating five servings of vegetables a day increased from 16 to 21 percent after their schools joined FFLP. Of the parents surveyed by UWE, 45 percent told researchers that their families were consuming more vegetables.

Here is a particularly striking excerpt of the article from FFLP director Libby Grundy:

“The UK has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Europe, with almost a quarter of adults and about one in ten children classed as obese, and a further 20-25 percent of children overweight.

The UWE evidence shows that our programme has made a positive difference to improving diet and this in turn is having a knock-on effect on behaviour and attainment.”

Organizations like FFLP make it possible for families to work with schools to encourage health and wellness in the everyday lives of children, while also working to improve academic performance and behavior. What better way to engage students in healthy eating than to include them in the growing and cooking process? 

One important part of the FELP approach is something that we've seen work here in our own efforts: bringing together stakeholders from throughout the school community to make a difference for kids' health. Mat Jones, senior lecturer in health and social policy at UWE, said:

“It brings together students, teachers, cooks and parents in a shared mission. This holistic approach appears to make a lot of sense for children who are encouraged to take their learning from classroom to dining hall and into their homes.

“Evidence of positive outcomes – for health, environmental awareness, wider learning and parental involvement – highlights the potential of joined-up action in schools.”

Kudos to FFLP for their successful efforts to promote healthy eating in schools and beyond!