A brief review of Secondary School Food Policy (SSFP) approaches in the UK from 2010 to 2022

Gurpinder Lali*, Kim Smith, Jayne Woodside, Greta Defeyter, Valeria Skafida, Kelly Morgan, Christopher Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a snapshot of secondary school food policy (SSFP) across the devolved nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) to offer insights into a growing area of policy concern. The selected context of research is school food policy (SFP), an area of research which has received little attention in terms of policy approaches. The review is focused on 2010 to 2022.

Design/methodology/approach – This work combines interdisciplinary perspectives spanning across food policy, public health, psychology, education and sociology. This combination has merit as it offers different perspectives in terms of understanding SFP. The study was conducted between August 2021 and March 2022, using a desk-based review, analysing policies on food in secondary schools. Data collection was conducted through the Web using key search terms. The READ (Read, Extract, Analyse, Distil) approach was used as a systematic procedure to analyse policy and evaluation documents.

Findings – To all levels of government, it is recommended that a coherent policymaking approach be used to tackle SSFP improvements, to progress a whole school approach to food, supported by long-term dedicated resources while engaging children in SSFP development. For education departments, it is recommended that a food curriculum review, connected to school meals alongside a refocus on school food standards monitoring and reporting is crucial in serving the future generations. The current economic crisis has had an impact on public spending. Universal Free School Meals has been said to make an enormous difference to well-being.

Originality/value – The current findings suggest that researching SFP across nations has merit. There is a relative lack of focus on secondary schools, in light of England’s focus on the National Food Strategy (focus on children), post-pandemic, economic crisis – together this makes school food and food policy a topic of real urgency and importance. Lessons can both be learned, particularly in promoting healthier and more educationally inclusive school food practices. Research in this area can inform curriculum design and school food environment and system changes from the perspective of learnings around taking a whole school food approach to education.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalNutrition and Food Science
Early online date24 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jan 2024

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