Whole school food policy

Food has a significant role to play in determining health and wellbeing, establishing social roles and reflecting and shaping the school's ethos and individuals' values.

Whole school food policy - a strategic approach

A strategic approach is required in order to give pupils consistent and accurate messages about healthier lifestyles, to help them to understand the effect of particular behaviours on health and encourage them to take responsibility for their own health. This can be achieved through a whole school approach which engages the entire school community in promoting consistent messages about healthier eating and drinking throughout the school day.

Benefits of a whole school approach

By endorsing a whole school approach your school can:

  • reinforce appropriate messages relating to food and drink, e.g. ensuring consistency between the formal curriculum and school food and drink provision;
  • promote healthier eating and healthier food and drink choices;
  • engage the entire school community in taking part in the policy development, usually through a School Council or School Nutrition Action Group (SNAG), e.g. pupils, staff, parents, governors and community partners;
  • show that your school is caring to all pupils, staff, and the wider community, by making a public statement of the values to which the school is committed;
  • communicate its shared vision, ethos and values;
  • establish effective working partnerships, working towards a common goal, e.g. school-caterer, teacher - parent.

Many schools have adopted a Whole School Food Policy.  A key aim of the Whole School Food Policy is to develop healthy eating and drinking activities in your school that can benefit pupils, staff, parents/carers, caterers and others associated with your school.

Benefits of a whole school food policy

A Whole School Food Policy enables your school to develop and maintain a shared philosophy on all aspects of food and drink. It makes a public statement which demonstrates how your school cares for and makes a positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of pupils, staff and other stakeholders.

A policy:

  • sets out a co-ordinated approach to food and drink to increase the availability of healthier options;
  • ensures equality of access and participation for all;
  • reinforces appropriate messages relating to food and drink, e.g. ensuring consistency between the formal curriculum and school food and drink provision;
  • engages the entire school community in taking part in the policy development, usually through a School Council or School Nutrition Action Group (SNAG), e.g. pupils, staff, parents, governors and community partners;
  • establishes effective working partnerships, working towards a common goal, e.g. school-caterer, teacher, parent;
  • ensures greater sustainability through planned action as part of the school's development plan, including provision for resourcing and staff training to meet its aims;
  • communicates your school's shared vision, ethos and values to pupils, staff, parents/carers, and other stakeholders (including the wider community).

What is a whole school food policy?

A Whole School Food Policy is a shared, evolving document for all stakeholders that interact with your school. It expresses a common vision of the ethos, status and role of all aspects of food within your school. In particular, it aims to develop a coherent approach to healthy eating activities in your school.

It encourages all aspects of food and drink to be brought together, clearly, coherently and consistently, including:

  • the formal curriculum, e.g. subjects, equipment and resources, ingredient provision and continuing professional development for staff;
  • extra-curricular activities, e.g. cookery club, school gardens;
  • participation in national events and initiatives;
  • provision of food and drink at school, e.g. breakfast clubs, tuck shop, school lunch , healthy hydration and use of food and drink as a reward;
  • consumption of food and drink at school, e.g. dining room environment, service style, time, pupils bringing food to schools, lunchboxes (including information to parents/carers) and commercial food vans;
  • promotion of food and drink, including advertising and sponsorship;
  • events and lettings at school, e.g. school fete;
  • pastoral care and welfare issues, e.g. behaviour, free school lunches.

The process of developing a policy facilitates discussion, provides a clear audit of the role and profile of food and drink in any school and engages all stakeholders towards its successful establishment.

Arguably, the process is more important than the final document since it helps establish ownership. Establishing a policy is key to improving the health and wellbeing of your school. Once your school has established its own Whole School Food Policy, targeted, co-ordinated approaches can then be put into action.

Step-by-step plan

1. Getting started

  • Do the Headteacher, senior leadership team and board of governors believe in a Whole School Food Policy? Do you have a vision? Do they share the vision?
  • What are the perceived priorities in your school? Food and drink may not be high on your agenda. However, as an area of study, and as a basic requirements for life, it can have a positive influence on school attainment, behaviour, punctuality and wellbeing.
  • Do teaching and non-teaching staff generally feel that this is something they can share? Do they understand that everyone is involved and will have responsibilities for implementation and monitoring the policy? What do pupils and parents/carers think?
  • A working group could be assembled to oversee the policy writing and consultation. School Councils and School Nutrition Action Groups (SNAGs) are successful models that many schools use throughout the country. The initial stages of development could be undertaken by a small representative core group, e.g. teachers, pupils, governors, health professionals, Healthy Schools co-ordinator, community dietitian, school nurse and catering staff. All other stakeholders need to be involved at a later stage during consultation. Pupils and parents/carers should be involved.


  • Why have a policy?
  • What are your perceived needs?
  • What are the benefits to the school, pupils, staff and parents/carers?
  • Can the school support its implementation and subsistence?
  • Who will form the initial working group?

 To do

  • Identify the perceived benefits for the school.
  • Discuss the concept of a Whole School Food Policy with Governors, Senior Leadership Team and staff.
  • Create a working group to start the initial development.
  • Establish a rationale for the policy, i.e. why do you want one?
  • Establish the remit for the policy, i.e. what would you like to achieve?

2. Conduct an audit of food in school

  • Assess the extent of food and drink related issues in your school. Conduct an audit of food and drink provision throughout your school. This task may be sub-divided between members of the working group, looking at food and drink provision, the formal curriculum, extra-curricular activities and consumption of food and drink at school. It will give a clear indication of the prevalence of healthier food and drink in school. It will also act as a baseline, from which progress can be monitored at a later date.
  • Review the results of the audit. Tease out good areas and those in need of improvement.
  • Share this information with the school. Keep all stakeholders informed of progress, e.g. staff, catering service, Healthy Schools co-ordinator, parents/carers and pupils.
  • Decide priorities for your school. Consider points for action. How do these relate to your original perceived needs?


  • Why conduct an audit?
  • Who will you talk to?
  • Who will conduct the audit?

 To do

  • Appoint a lead person to oversee this area of work.
  • Conduct the audit.
  • Review and publish the results.
  • Decide on the needs and priorities of your school.
  • Start to formulate aims and objective for your policy, based on these priorities.
  • Establish targets/success criteria.

3. Draft policy

  • In consultation with the small initial working group, draft a policy that reflects the needs of the school, identified through the audit, and the values in which the school community believes.
  • Try to keep the policy tight, set realistic goals and decide who is responsible for implementing and monitoring each aspect, i.e. what it means in practice, where, how, when and by whom it will be done.
  • The policy might have the following headings:
    • Introduction (date agreed, review date, accessibility rights, where it can be found)
    • Aim, e.g. 'To ensure that all aspects of food and drink in school promote the health and wellbeing of pupils, staff and visitors to our school'.
    • Rationale, i.e. why are you writing the policy?
    • Objectives, i.e. what do you want to achieve?
    • Guidelines, i.e. how will the objectives be met?
    • Monitoring and evaluation, i.e. how will you know whether your objectives are being met?


  • Is the formal school curriculum and approach to teaching aspects of food and nutrition consistent, up-to- date and unbiased?
  • Do you need to rationalise your food service, e.g. type, variety of food and drink, eating environment, time, theme weeks?
  • Do other services need to be implemented to make your policy work, e.g. a healthier breakfast club, fruit tuck shop, ensuring adequate provision of drinking water?
  • Could you introduce school participation in national schemes or special events?
  • Do you need to establish a school viewpoint on use and content of vending machines, e.g. ensuring that vending machines have a range of products that allow healthy choice?
  • Can you pledge a commitment to staff training and resource provision to make the policy work and achieve its aims (as part of the school development plan)?
  • What will be the role of all stakeholders to make the policy work?

 To do

  • Nominate a group member to write a preliminary draft, in line with the audit results and school vision.
  • Review at School Council or SNAG.
  • Allow group members, as well as the Headteacher and governors, to provide constructive feedback on this draft.
  • Modify draft and print copies ready for consultation.
  • Produce and print a consultation response form.

4. Consult on the draft policy

  • The draft policy should be made available to all stakeholders that interact with your school. A set length of time for consultation should also be established, with all comments being returned to a named individual.
  • Although general feedback may be welcome, consideration should also be given to the creation of a brief questionnaire for completion and return (this could be done online for ease). This will help to focus the respondent's mind and provide data which may be analysed to help determine school priorities and needs.
  • The document could be made available to all school staff through a briefing, as part of a school newsletter for pupils and parents/carers and to the wider community through the school's website, letters, emails, social media postings and meetings.


  • Are you clear about the aims and objectives?
  • Have you ensured healthier food and drink provision is an integral part of the policy?
  • Have you thought through all the consequences?
  • Have you consulted widely?
  • Is the policy realistic? (time/resources/staff)
  • Is the policy clear, explicit and straightforward?

 To do

  • Produce the draft policy, or reproduce its aims in a format that will be understood by different stakeholders.
  • Set a deadline for the consultation process.
  • Advertise the consultation process.
  • Send out policy to stakeholders, with a response form.
  • At the end of the consultation period, compile responses to the draft policy.
  • Review and consolidate comments received.

5. Modify draft policy in light of feedback

  • Analyse the feedback and modify the policy in light of suggestions and comments made.
  • Give consideration to each aspect of feedback, e.g. what is perceived as good or bad?
  • Ensure that the policy includes an acknowledgement of who was consulted in its production, with a date.


  • Does the school have sufficient resources to make the policy work?
  • Does the curriculum content and management reflect and endorse healthy eating and drinking messages?
  • Do staff require training in aspects of food and nutrition?
  • How can the school ensure pupils entitled to free school meals take them up?
  • Are extra-curricular activities desired? If so, is there sufficient funding and enthusiasm?

To do

  • Analyse the comments received.
  • Modify draft policy in light of consultation.
  • Get governor and senior management team sign-off.
  • Ratify the modified policy at School Council or SNAG meeting.
  • Produce policy.

6. Disseminate revised policy

  • The policy should be widely disseminated in different formats, e.g. a flyer of the key issues could be produced for parents/carers, inclusion in prospectus, on the school website. The school’s social media channels could be used.
  • A series of displays could be produced around the school, highlighting different aspects of the policy, e.g. healthy eating, fruit and vegetables.
  • Ensure those with responsibilities of implementation and monitoring understand what they have to do.
  • Let all stakeholders know that the policy is a group effort - empowering the school to make a difference to the health of all.
  • The policy could be shared with local cluster school groups or feeder schools - establishing a partnership of understanding.


  • Is the policy easy to read and understand?
  • Does it need to be translated?
  • How will you disseminate the policy?
  • Have you produced an effective dissemination plan?

To do

  • Provide copies of the policy to all school staff, not only teaching staff.
  • Set up a display representing food topics, e.g. healthy eating, importance of healthy hydration.
  • Let all stakeholders know about the policy, in a format that will be most easily understood, e.g. assemblies, staff meetings, School Council meetings, an email or letter ro parents/carers, on the school website and/or through social media, in the school newsletter or prospectus and to local newspapers (letting the local community know about how the school cares about health and wellbeing).

7. Implement policy

  • Put the policy into action.
  • Let people know what is expected from them in the policy.
  • Ensure that training and resources identified in the policy are provided.
  • Show the school how the policy is being implemented - celebrate your successes.


  • What is the best way of implementing the objectives in your policy?
  • How will you let different people know what their responsibilities are?

To do

  • Delegate responsibility for the success of each objective to a group member. Allow them to implement the policy in their specialist area, e.g. allow a specialist food teacher to ensure food and nutrition content is up-to-date.
  • Work with all stakeholders to ensure your objectives are being met.

8. Monitor, evaluate and refresh policy

  • At regular intervals, e.g. annually, the policy should be reappraised in light of developments and changes in school. New targets may need to be set or effort moved to new priorities and challenges.
  • Judge/assess the worth of your policy – a further audit of provision may be necessary.


  • Are the objectives in the policy being met? How can you tell? How have you measured outcomes?
  • Have there been difficulties? Why have these arisen?
  • What have been the successes? What made these possible?
  • What do parents and pupils think about the policy? Is it having an effect on food and drink choice, educational attainment, attendance or behaviour?
  • Has the School Council or SNAG been successful? What has it reported on?
  • Are there national initiatives in which the school should join?
  • How can the policy be improved?

 To do

  • Introduce the policy as an agenda item for governors and staff.
  • Document actions, e.g. use a digital camera to record what is being done.
  • Continue to engage all stakeholders, e.g. set up an open meeting for all stakeholders to share their viewpoints.
  • Celebrate your success.
  • Compile areas of strength and weakness.
  • Modify the policy and share it with all stakeholders for the next year.

The information is provided under the Open Government Licence. Terms can be found at: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence. This resource was developed for the DES/DH Food in Schools programme 2004-2005. © Crown copyright 2005

Reviewed 28.01.2022

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