Caterers should look to local farmers when procuring food for school meals, a government advisory body has recommended.

The School Meals Review Panel has published a report which recommends an overhaul of the nation’s school menus to set new minimum standards for food in schools.

It says that schools should aspire to give children a hot meal, cooked on site from fresh and seasonal ingredients.

It adds: “The procurement of food served in schools should be consistent with sustainable development principles and schools and caterers should look to local farmers and suppliers for their produce where possible, tempered by a need for the menus to meet new nutritional standards and be acceptable in schools.”

Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett, who was the only food producer to sit on the panel, said he wanted to see children eating high quality school dinners every day.

“We especially welcome the panel’s emphasis on the social, cultural and environmental aspects of school meals. 

“We have been consistently told by teachers and school catering staff that healthy school meals have lead to calmer, better behaved pupils who concentrate better in class.”