July 2nd, 2010

The hands-off approach to food policy that is championed by the New Zealand Government has won a huge victory in Britain with the decision by the new Tory/Liberal coalition to cease funding for Jamie Oliver’s high profile food in schools programme.

Addressing doctors at a British Medical Association conference, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “If we are constantly lecturing people and trying to tell them what to do, we will actually find that we undermine and are counterproductive in the results that we achieve.

“Jamie Oliver, quite rightly, was talking about trying to improve the diet of children in schools and improving school meals, but the net effect was the number of children eating school meals in many of these places didn’t go up, it went down.”

What Lansley is referring to is the drop in the number of children eating school meals in the Jamie Oliver programme schools. According to a survey of 27 schools, 70 percent reported a drop in school lunch numbers of between nine and 25 percent.

Oliver described the Health Secretary’s speech as an insult. “I’m not encouraged by the news that the new health minister has summed up eight years of hard work in a few lines for the sake of a headline,” he said.

The former Education Secretary has also slammed the change. Labour MP Ed Balls declared that Lansley is, “… totally wrong about the impact of Jamie Oliver’s campaign. As a result of his work, hundreds of school kitchens and canteens up and down the country have been transformed, the quality of food on offer has improved out of all recognition, and children and schools are taking a much greater interest in how to eat healthily. Latest figures show that take-up is also on the rise.”

He also made a political point about the new government’s decision to scrap his party’s plan to pay for free school lunches for 500,000 children from poor families.

“Not only does he want those children to carry on paying for their lunch, he seems to want Turkey Twizzlers back on the menu,” he told The Independent.

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