A history and review of school meal standards in the UK

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2009 Apr;22(2):89-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2008.00941.x.


This review details the history of school meals in the UK, from their origin in the mid-19th Century, to the present day, and provides a summary of how each country has independently developed its own food and or nutrient-based standards for school meals. The standards in place in the UK are amongst some of the most detailed and comprehensive in the world. Regular monitoring to ensure that these standards are being met and that schools are improving healthy eating is essential to their success. Of no lesser importance are assessments to determine whether changes to school meals are having an impact on the diets of school children. It is early days in terms of evaluation because food-based standards have only recently been introduced and nutrient-based standards are in the process of being developed and implemented. Studies in England provide some evidence that the re-introduction of standards for school food is having a positive impact on both pupil's food choices and the nutritional profile of school lunches. At present, there does not appear to be a pattern between current obesity levels and the types of school meals provided, although it is anticipated that, in the long term, these comprehensive standards may contribute to a less obesogenic environment.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Diet / history
  • Diet / standards*
  • Food Services / history
  • Food Services / standards*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Policy* / history
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / history
  • Schools / history
  • Schools / standards
  • United Kingdom