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Home arrow Market Research Findings arrow Nutrition arrow Parents believe Jamie Oliver is responsible for the improvement in school meals
Parents believe Jamie Oliver is responsible for the improvement in school meals PDF Print E-mail
29 Mar 2006
Following the enormous media attention last year on celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his bid to help improve school dinners, UK research agency BMRB looked at whether or not parents believe there has actually been any improvement in the food their children eat at school.

Parents believe Jamie Oliver is responsible for the improvement in school meals

Following the enormous media attention last year on celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his bid to help improve school dinners, UK research agency BMRB looked at whether or not parents believe there has actually been any improvement in the food their children eat at school.

BMRB interviewed 582 parents of children aged under 17 in March 2005, shortly after Oliver’s BAFTA-nominated programme was first shown. One year on BMRB repeated the survey among 540 parents to gauge the success of the campaign.

Over the past year there has been a massive shift in parents’ perceptions of the quality of school dinners.

75% of parents who expressed an opinion say there has been an improvement in school meals over the past 12 months. Of those who believe that school meals have improved, 44% think that Jamie Oliver is most responsible for the improvement - more than the combined total of those who attribute the improvement to schools (13%), the Government (12%) and Local Education Authorities (11%).

The proportion of parents who believe the quality of school dinners is poor or fair has halved, from 22% in 2005 to 11% in 2006. Around half of parents (51%) now perceive that the quality of school dinners is good, very good or excellent, compared with 29% last year.

Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve school meals achieved huge visibility – 96% of parents of under 17s have heard of it.

Commenting on the research Trisha Jaff, Headteacher at Kidbrooke School in Greenwich where Jamie worked with the dinner ladies to improve school dinners said: “I am delighted by the results of the survey that shows the enormous impact the campaign for decent school dinners has had. I am extremely proud of the role our dinner ladies, students and parents played in changing the culture nationwide. It was a hard struggle at first but it has been well worth it. We have 600 children now using the canteen regularly with another 100 buying Jamie’s healthy packed lunches. With a result like this I expect Jamie will be taking our dinner ladies off to his restaurant 15, for a treat! Congratulations to all involved.”

But the campaign to improve school meals is not over. Parents would still pay more to ensure more fresh food was used in their child’s school dinner. Two-thirds (67%) of parents of 5-16 year olds who pay for their child’s lunches say they would support an increase in the amount of fresh produce used in school meals, even if it meant they had to pay more. While this has dropped 8 percentage points from last year (75%) – perhaps reflecting increased satisfaction with school meals – an overwhelming majority of parents are still concerned about the issue.

Eating habits of children while at school don’t seem to have changed much – 60% are sent to school with packed lunches and 13% still buy their lunch from a shop or vending machine. These are similar proportions to last year.

At home though, there is some indication that parents may be using fresher ingredients more often: over a third (36%) of parents of under 17s say that their children eat a meal cooked from raw ingredients every evening compared with 31% a year ago.

Melanie Jugdev from BMRB commented “These improvements are great news. Jamie seems to have achieved what he set out to do, in changing the quality of school meals for the better. But parents recognise there is still more work to do and would still be prepared to pay more for fresh food.

Some kids will always buy lunch at shops or from vending machines, so retailers’, schools’ and vending companies’ efforts to stock healthy options are well placed.

It must give all stakeholders involved (Jamie, government, caterers and dinner ladies) a great boost to know their efforts have been noticed.”

 
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