Jamie Oliver had criticised the government for its refusal to commit to long-term plans over healthy school dinners.

The celebrity chef launched a high-profile campaign to improve the quality of meals in UK schools after his Jamie's School Dinners TV programme had uncovered a worrying amount of junk food on the menu of schools across Britain.

A government white paper introduced in 2004 introduced tougher minimum standards for school meals and outlined a new vocational qualification for school catering staff in a bid to press the promotion of healthy eating.

But speaking at the Hay Festival in Powys, Oliver related his continuing frustration at the government's approach to the issue.

"I've been through three education secretaries and two prime ministers," he told interviewer Rosie Boycott.

"They won't commit to a ten-year plan."

He continued: "I think feeding our kids is the cogs of our country. It shouldn't have anything to do with politics. But I am trying to pace myself so I'm shutting up about it for around 18 months."

The TV chef said he had been disheartened by the quality of many children's packed lunches - even seeing some with lunchboxes containing the Red Bull energy drink and McDonald's fast food - and pressed the need for teaching children to cook.

"Food is so important and we have let it go," he told the audience. "Kids should be able to leave school and know how to make a stew or a stir fry."

In response to Oliver's remarks, a spokesperson for the School Food Trust, the government body set up in 2005 to improve school meals, said the agency recognised the long-term needs of transforming food in schools.

"After an entirely expected difficult start there's No Doubt that the corner's been turned," she told the BBC.

"So while nobody's expecting to see a massive change over night the truth is that everyone is completely committed to this for the future."

24/05/2008 08:02:31