The FixOurFood team has a vision where tasty, good quality, sustainable food is the ‘default’ and easiest choice for all children in early years and school food systems. We are moving beyond the concept of equity, towards approaches which seek to provide the greatest benefit to those needing it most.
Schools and early years settings play a key role in implementing change in the food system and children are powerful drivers for that change. A key focus for FixOurFood is poor diet in young children – particularly those from deprived populations. Yorkshire is ethnically diverse and contains social and economic deprivation and ill health with many areas showing some of the worst income deprivation statistics affecting children in England. Working in collaboration will enable us to embed and test regenerative interventions which are culturally appropriate and have the potential to benefit both health and the environment.
We are therefore aiming to establish a FixOurFood in Schools Network, inviting all primary schools with nurseries across Yorkshire to be involved. This network will enable us to explore what the existing school food environments look like, and we will work with a wide range of school food stakeholders to identify key areas for change and monitor school food progress. There are many benefits to schools joining the FixOurFood in Schools Network including the chance to be part of ground-breaking research which aims to transform the food system in Yorkshire for the benefit of dietary and planetary health.
Earlier in 2022, FixOurFood carried out a survey and workshops with a diverse range of students, practitioners and researchers involved in school food in Yorkshire. The Three Horizons practice was used to understand current challenges, desired futures, and critical actions needed to support school food transformation. You can read the outcomes of this work in our Transforming food culture in Yorkshire’s schools and early years settings report.
A key focus of activity is to co-design new school menus and new educational approaches to demonstrate how a regenerative healthy diet can reduce climate change. The team will assess how innovations in hybrid food economies and regenerative farming can support system change within early years and primary school settings, leading to improved nutritional quality, optimised environments and reduction in green house gas emissions. We aim to reduce inequalities in health and diet quality early in life and catalyse dietary change more broadly. One example of this is our focus on improving food provision over school holidays, where we are working in collaboration with the Food Foundation and holiday provision partners in Yorkshire to evaluate the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme.
We also plan to develop a new model of food procurement to schools and nurseries, by adapting food environments in early years and school settings to enable children to be drivers of change. We will empower and harness the ideas of children through our new Leaders for Change group – children who are representing our collaborating schools, ages 6-16. This group, alongside the Food Foundation’s Young Food Ambassadors, will contribute to biannual events and opportunities for co-designing interventions based on new knowledge and understandings.
As well as showing how children can be agents for change, other important outcomes of the programme will include enhanced food education, regenerative environmental impacts, increased nutritional value and enhanced equity of catering provision.
Key people: Dr Maria Bryant, Dr Grace Gardner, Jack Garry, Annie Connolly
In the UK, poor diet results in 1 in 7 deaths every yearsource: GBD, 2017
Almost 23% of children are already overweight or obese when they start primary schoolsource NHS Digital, 2019