By John Swinney, Deputy First Minister
Education is the defining mission of this Government. We want to ensure every child – no matter where they are from or how well off their family is – has the same opportunities and an equal chance to succeed and we are taking forward a range of actions to achieve this.
One important focus for us is school food: it matters, both in terms of what children eat and what they learn about.
As part of Curriculum for Excellence, children and young people are encouraged to acquire knowledge and skills to help them understand how food can affect everything around them. Teachers have access to resources aimed at supporting learning about Scotland’s food and drink through well planned interdisciplinary learning. This will prove particularly important in meeting this Government’s commitment to raising attainment for all and closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
The Scottish Government has also invested heavily in school food over the past decade. Our strict regulations governing food and drink served in schools are among the most stringent in Europe. With almost 366,000 school meals served up in Scottish schools every day we must ensure nutritional standards are the best they can be. I also want children, especially primary pupils, to have as many of their ‘five a day’ as possible, and for food to be sourced as locally as possible.
Scotland has an outstanding natural larder and a rich culinary heritage, which is reflected more and more in the food and drink served in our schools.
And this is being celebrated this International School Meals Day which is focussing on ‘Food, Culture and Heritage’, reflecting 2017 as the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
From fresh berries, oats and barley, to delicious meats and cheeses, and fish and shellfish from our pristine waters, some of the delicacies for which Scotland is internationally renowned can trace their history back to Neolithic times. Scotland clearly has much to offer the world when it comes to food culture and heritage.
As we go forward with our plan of work for the coming year, we should remember the journey Scottish food and drink has taken. I hope you will share your food experiences as a child growing up in Scotland so we can tell the story of culinary change as we look ahead to 2018, and the Year of the Young People.
Since its inception, International School Meals Day has grown in in scale and success, last year involving schools in Brazil, India, Sweden, Pakistan, Italy, Czech Republic, Gambia, Lesotho, Malawi and – for the first time – Canada, and Namibia.