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21 October - 17 November
FoSS and ESRC logos

Fixing school food: an appetite for change

Photograph of a colourful salad bar from above

Lifelong wellbeing theme

What’s on offer?

The University of Hertfordshire, in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire Young People’s Advisory Group (Herts YPAG), is excited to be running this important workshop to develop a safe, comfortable environment for young people to reflect and discuss their views on school meals in the UK, including what they think needs to be improved in order to increase the uptake of school meals, whether these are free or paid for.

What’s it about?

Research shows that school meals, including free school meals, can make important contributions to children’s and young people’s health and wellbeing. However, some children and families choose not to take them up. Why?

Aimed at children and young people in secondary school, this interactive workshop, co-facilitated and planned with members of the Herts YPAG will - using creative methods such as plasticine modelling and a live drawing by an artist - encourage an invited group of young people to reflect on their views of school meals in the UK to share their ideas about what young people enjoy and do not enjoy about school meals and what would help.

Using their original research on school meals for children and young people in Portugal and the UK, researchers from the University of Hertfordshire will task the group with comparing, reflecting and discussing their perspectives of school food provision. As part of this, they’ll also be asked to consider the factors that they think may be responsible for encouraging or discouraging uptake of school meals, including free school meals, such as quantity, quality, the school dining environment and stigma and shame around free school meals.

Specific questions that will be addressed include: 

  • What are the best and worst aspects of school food provision, including the food and the dining environment?
  • Why don’t some children take up or eat free school meals even when entitled?
  • What improvements are needed to national policies and school/catering practices to mean more children receive and eat school meals, including free school meals?

During the two-hour session, children and young people will be given plasticine to make models of their most/least favourite lunches, while an artist will live draw the discussion that follows. Photos of plasticine models, a blog co-written with YPAG members, and the live drawing will later be shared via the Herts YPAG webpage and UH and Herts YPAG social media (Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) accounts.

Who’s leading the event?

Rebecca O'Connell, Professor of Food, Families and Society at the University of Hertfordshire; Louca-Mai Brady, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire; Herts Young People’s Advisory Group.

Open to

Invited young people, via Stevenage Youth Council, Services for Young People (

Of particular interest to

Young people including those studying sociology A-Level and/or intereted in food and/or social justice