The 1944 Education Act marked the foundation of the modern School Catering Service. A statutory duty is imposed on Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to provide a 'mid-day dinner...suitable in all respects as the main meal of the day'. LEAs are free to provide meals consistent with broad nutritional guidelines of the Department of Education and Science but financial pressures have a large bearing on this. The traditional 2-course meal is still the norm, although there is a multi-choice menu for the majority of secondary schoolchildren. But a wide choice of food is incompatible with closely prescribed nutritional standards and pupils need to be aware of the implications for their health in the choice of food. The adoption of dietary recommendations for prevention of coronary heart disease would not generate serious practical difficulties for the professional caterer. The technical problems arising from minor adaptations in catering practice would be minimal in comparison to those of cost, education and hence modification of consumer demand. The move away from nutritional standards is likely to accelerate if, owing to financial constraints, the Government withdraws nutritional guidelines or removes the obligation on LEAs to provide a catering service. The danger is that financial considerations will override those of nutrition and a unique opportunity for health education by guidance and example in the schools may be lost.
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