Schoolgirl blogger Martha Payne releases NeverSeconds book

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Martha Payne, the enterprising Scottish schoolgirl who hit the headlines with her controversial school meals blog, has released a book charting her story.

The nine-year old became famous overnight when her local council banned her from posting photos of her school dinners online. 

But the backlash from both the public and the media from across the world saw Argyll and Bute council back down and Payne's charity fundraising efforts rocket to more than £120,000.

A trip to Malawi followed, where the Lochgilphead schoolgirl saw the cash fund a kitchen shelter through charity Mary's Meals.

Now, with the help of her father David, Payne has written a book named after her blog NeverSeconds, featuring healthy eating tips for children.

Proceeds from each copy go to the Mary's Meals charity, providing healthy food for schools in Malawi. Her publisher Cargo said: "Martha's story is the story of the year."

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Jamie Oliver has renewed his call for a universal set of nutritional standards for all schools, including state maintained, academies and free schools, after new research showed that 92% of parents supported the measure.

A new survey of 12,000 parents by LACA and ParentPay revealed the findings, which coincide with the start of National School Meals Week 2012.

Jamie Oliver said: "It's blatantly clear from the outcome of the LACA/ParentPay survey - which is a direct representation of what busy parents in this day and age actually think - what a humungous impact health has on our lives. I just hope that they show the results to Mr Gove [education secretary] and that he does something positive with the data."

Improve children's diet by keeping them in school

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School meals have hit the headlines once again. This time it's because they were the subject of an episode of the Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches, which aimed to unveil the "school food scandal". But somehow, and frustratingly, it missed the point.

While it revealed evidence to support the case for making nutritional standards mandatory in all schools - currently, academies do not need to comply - it failed to recognise that there are plenty of examples of excellent work being done in school canteens around the country.

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A Channel 4 investigation into the issues around school food was a missed opportunity, according to disappointed campaigners for healthier school meals.

Dispatches: the School Food Scandal, which aired last night, aimed to examine the evidence that the strategies to improve the food served in schools are fast coming undone.

But school meal champions said it focused on fast food and politics and in doing so failed to address the real challenges faced on the education front line.

New campaign aims to get children to eat more fruit and veg at school

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The Children's Food Trust has teamed up with children's food writer and broadcaster Fiona Faulkner to get children to eat more fruit and vegetables at school, amid concerns that some are not eating enough. 

Faulkner will work with the charity on a new campaign, launched today, aimed at helping parents and school cooks to encourage children to "take two" of their five-a-day every lunchtime at school. National research by the trust suggests that many of them fail to do so.

A study by Faulkner of 300 five to 15 year olds found that some children were unsure of where fruit and vegetables come from, with many still afraid to try new varieties. Some suggested that beetroot is a poisonous plant and that broccoli grows on trees.

She commented: "Our findings are shocking - but perhaps not surprising. So if we can get kids to eat two of their five-a-day every day in their school lunch by the end of 2013, that would be a huge step forward.

"It's not easy, as our findings show. That's why parents and school cooks, who are often already being really creative to get kids eating fruit and veg, need all the tips and tricks they can get."

Children's Food Trust nutritionist Tricia Mucavele added: "Fruit and veg are excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, iron and zinc, and also for fibre - which we all need for a healthy digestive system.

"Eating fruit and veg every day can also help prevent things like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, and helps us all avoid deficiencies in essential nutrients. So by getting your kids into good fruit and veg habits while they're young, you're helping to look after their health for the future, too."

Faulkner has worked with the trust to develop a series of tips to include fruit and veg in meals. These include using grated carrots or courgettes in a homemade pizza base, putting dried fruit into savoury dishes, such as apricots in tagines or curries, and vegetables into savoury muffins.

The full list of tips can be downloaded at www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/taketwo.

New campaign aims to get children to eat more fruit and veg at school

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The Children's Food Trust has teamed up with children's food writer and broadcaster Fiona Faulkner to get children to eat more fruit and vegetables at school, amid concerns that some are not eating enough.

Faulkner will work with the charity on a new campaign, launched today, aimed at helping parents and school cooks to encourage children to "take two" of their five-a-day every lunchtime at school. National research by the trust suggests that many of them fail to do so.

Universal free school meals bridges rich-poor divide

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Free school meals could bridge the gap between rich and poor pupils, according to a new report released this week.

This was based on the findings of a two-year £40m pilot scheme that saw free school meals made available for all primary school children in Durham and Newham. A third trial in Wolverhampton saw free school meals extended to families receiving working tax credits.

The research found significant improvements in the attainment of pupils, as well as benefits for diet and take-up of healthy school meals.

Primary school children advanced by two months on average, with the results most pronounced in those from poorer homes.

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Jamie Oliver has criticised sporting role models such as David Beckham and Gary Lineker for promoting junk foods.

The celebrity chef has joined health professionals and teachers saying the use of famous sports stars in junk food adverts was sending the wrong message to children.

In an open letter to The Times, signed by Oliver, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) president Dr Hilary Cass and others, the group expresses its "grave concern about this trend".

London school sacks caterers in favour of sandwich service

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A Brent school's decision to ditch its meals service in favour of sandwiches has left catering staff facing an uncertain future.

The head teacher and governors of Our Lady of Grace RC junior school, London, scrapped a contract with ISS Catering to provide a full school lunch service just days before the end of term.

Only pupils entitled to free school meals will be eligible for a sandwiches only service that is expected to commence in September, according to a statement by trade union GMB.

The jobs of seven ISS Catering staff are under threat as a result of the decision, but the caterer is in the process of finding alternative positions for them within its business.

School meals take-up in England rises for fourth year

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School meals take-up in England has risen for a fourth consecutive year, the Children's Food Trust has announced today.

New figures reported by local authorities reveal that an average of 46.3% of England's primary school children opted for school meals in the 2011-12 academic year, up from 44.1% the previous year.

Take-up in secondary schools has also increased for the same period, rising to 39.8% from 37.6% the year before.

The survey also found that the average price of a school meal had gone up by 5p to £1.98, below food inflation rates.