School Food Standards prompt increase in sustainable fish

One in six UK primary schools is now serving MSC certified sustainable fish to students – is yours?

Over 500 schools have become Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified in the past year, an 18% increase in schools offering their pupils demonstrably sustainable fish. The MSC attributes the change to the new School Food Standards, which came into force in January this year. 

Henry Dimbleby, one of the authors of the School Food Standards, said: “This report highlights the impact of the School Food Plan on the sourcing of fish in schools. It shows a strong start, though there is still a long way to go. Thousands more school pupils eating sustainable fish, supporting sustainable fishing and learning how to protect the marine environment: that’s a fantastic legacy to leave our children. 

“The evidence is clear: eating fish, and particularly oily fish, is good for developing brains and bodies. But while feeding children well today, we also need to protect their future. That’s why we recommended sustainably-sourced, MSC-certified fish.”

Toby Middleton, Programme Director at the MSC, said: “We’ve seen a significant increase in schools serving MSC certified fish and a renewed interest in oily fish. Under the School Food Standards, schools are required to serve oily fish every three weeks and they recommend MSC certified fish. With the Standards coming into force in January we’ve seen renewed commitments from LEAs and their suppliers coupled with a real shift in attitudes toward sustainable fish sourcing.”  

Eighteen percent more primary schools now serve MSC-certified fish

Improvements from 2014

In the first MSC End of Term Report, in 2014, it was clear that there was a wide range in adoption of MSC-labelled fish on school menus. The northern and midland LEAs performed particularly well, with the South East lagging behind and the South West performing poorly. In the 2015 report, the South East region has improved significantly adding 209 certified schools while Midlands LEAs have continued their drive for sustainable seafood sourcing with a further 164 schools joining their already high-performing area. The combined effect is a 33% increase in sales of MSC certified fish into the education sector suggesting that the increase in MSC certified schools is matched by a further increase in fish consumption.

Schools in Devon have also this year made the first steps towards progress in the South West. Despite being home to three MSC certified fisheries (for hake, sardines and mussels), the South West has had no MSC certified schools until late 2014. The newly certified schools are around Torbay in Devon.    

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