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What are the nutritional requirements for food and drink served in schools?

There are different sets of nutrient standards for primary and secondary pupils which reflect the differing nutritional needs of the age groups. The Regulations stipulate that at least two varieties of vegetables and fruits, and bread, should be provided daily. Oily fish should be on the menu at least once every three weeks. Savoury snacks, other than plain crackers, oatcakes, and breadsticks, are off the menu, as is confectionary (e.g. chocolate bars, sweets, cereal bars) and soft drinks with added sugar. Chips should be served as an accompaniment only. Food that has been deep fried should not be served more than three times in a week. This is aimed at achieving a balanced school meal of high quality; the type of fat found in oily fish for example has been associated with better learning and behavioural outcomes.

The Regulations furthermore specify the minimum levels of key vitamins and minerals, and maximum levels of salt, sugar, total and saturated fat, that the average school meal should contain. These nutritional standards aim to limit calorie, salt, sugar and saturated fat consumption to recommended levels for school age children, while ensuring that school lunches provide one third of the required daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

The Regulations stipulate that drinking water is to be provided free of charge throughout the school day. Inadequate hydration impairs concentration and mental function.

Schools do not have to comply with nutrient standards when serving food and drink as part of a social, cultural or recreational event, or to mark any religious or cultural occasion; this would include, for example, birthday cake, or Christmas lunch.