Tag Archives: food

Packed lunches should be banned, says review

Head teachers in England are being urged to ban packed lunches to increase the take-up of school dinners and promote healthy eating.

A government-commissioned school food review by two founders of the Leon restaurant chain says take-up is low at 43% despite huge quality improvements.

Packed lunches are nearly always less nutritious than a cooked meal, say the authors of the School Food Plan.

Revised food-based standards are to be tested and introduced from 2014.

These are likely to replace the extremely stringent guidelines which control the regularity with which food groups and processed items are offered.

The report describes the process by which they are applied as a “finnicky” one and claims staff need to use a computer programme to implement them.

It added: “Many caterers told us they spent hours fiddling about with recipes trying to make the computer say ‘yes’, only to see children make a mockery of their efforts by assembling a plate full of food that looks nothing like their efforts.”

The new standards will be applied them to maintained schools and all new academies and free schools, the Department for Education said.

Head teachers are also being urged to lower the price of lunches to boost take-up. This might include providing subsidised meals for reception classes in primary schools and Year 7 classes in secondary schools, the report says.

And there are calls for free meals to be extended to all primary schools, starting in the most deprived areas of England. The government says it will investigate the case for extending free school meals entitlement.

The Department for Education ordered the review by restaurateurs Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent into the state of school meals in 2012 following strong criticism from TV chef Jamie Oliver, who earlier led a successful campaign to ban junk and processed food from school canteens.

This resulted in tight nutritional guidelines and healthy eating policies in many schools for those bringing packed lunches.

But in 2011 he claimed that standards were being eroded because academies and free schools were exempt from national nutritional guidelines.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “What I’d like to see is more children eating school lunches and fewer having packed lunches, and more children feeling healthier and more energetic throughout the day.”

Mr Dimbleby told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that school food had improved since the “dark days of the turkey twizzler,” but that the proportion of children eating school meals was not high enough.

He stressed that more than half of children brought packed lunches into schools but that around two-thirds contained crisps or confectionery.

“The best schools, the schools with good food, find ways of making packed lunches the least exciting option,” he added.

If packed lunches were banned, schools would be able to provide better meals at a cheaper price, and this would help boost children’s performance, he argued.

Packed lunches are understood to be banned in just a very small number of schools, but the DfE insists it is possible and that many schools do not realise that.

Mr Dimbleby later told reporters: “I would ban packed lunches if it was my school but I think there are other ways. There’s a strong libertarian streak in the English and some head teachers might think that’s a battle they don’t want to fight.”

The review suggests that items such as sugary drinks, crisps and confectionery be forbidden from lunch boxes. In reality many schools already have healthy packed lunch policies banning such items.

General secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers Russell Hobby said he felt it probably was not feasible for schools to ban packed lunches.

He thought it was right, instead, to focus on making school meals more attractive in terms of cost and access as well as nutritional content, taste and presentation.

He added: “It is hard for students to concentrate on learning when they haven’t eaten enough or when they’ve eaten the wrong things. The benefits from investing in decent cooked meals are huge: better learning and better habits later in life; a calm and sociable lunch hall also sets a tone for the rest of the day.”

The Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman added: “While encouraging all students to eat a nutritious hot lunch is the right aim, it is not always feasible. Many hardworking families on relatively low incomes give their children packed lunches because they don’t qualify for free school meals and the cost of a school dinner would be prohibitive.”

Labour said exempting academies had allowed junk food to “creep back” into schools and it urged the government to enforce food standards across the board.

Shadow children’s minister Sharon Hodgson said when the country was in the middle of a childhood obesity crisis, it was important that schools were doing their part to improve diets.

“Labour vastly improved the quality of school food after Jamie Oliver’s important campaign.”

But she accused David Cameron and Michael Gove of deliberately undermining that progress by exempting academies and free schools from Labour’s rules.

Labour also pointed out that academies and free schools set up between 2010 and Jan 2014 would be under no obligation to sign up to the food standards

Other recommendations include: After-school cooking lessons for parents and children, more schools to have stay-on-site rules for break and lunch time, and for teachers to be encouraged to sit in the dining hall with children. And there is to be a £16m cash injection to boost the take-up of meals.

The report comes as the obesity rate among children at the end of primary school has risen to almost one in five.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said all children in poverty should receive a free school meal and urged the government to use its planned consultation on the future of free school meals to make sure no child in poverty misses out.

Linda Cregan, head of the Children’s Food Trust, said: “The pledge of funding to give thousands of schools practical help with increasing take up is very welcome, as is investment to create new breakfast clubs in places where children are in greatest need.

“At a time when so many families on low incomes are struggling with the costs of food, we look forward to progress on the commitments to look at extending free school meals to more children and the call for universal free school meals in all primary schools.”

I have a bit of a gripe about the idea of banning packed lunches. Packed lunches are a way for parents to get a good idea of what their child is eating. With school meals coming in, parents won’t have that control. The other thing is that these school meals are not as healthy or aesthetically pleasing as they should be right now, let alone the cost of these plates. I would understand if the meals offered in schools were nutritionally valuable, good value for money and tastes decent, but my last school dinner pretty much had absolutely none of these. I took a packed lunch with me ever since because I always had food that were healthy in there and I could control what I was eating. I would find it rather difficult to sacrifice that control. However, if the quality of school dinners improve significantly, then I will think differently about this.

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Paignton school refuses child lunch over a £1.75 debt

Food returns to the headlines today as a father of 2 children has pulled both of them out of a primary school in Paignton after one was refused lunch because the family owed £1.75.

Gary Lynn, who has also resigned as a governor at the school, accused the school of “physical and emotional neglect” reminiscent of Oliver Twist. He also accuses the school of ‘creating a policy which looks at using a child as a weapon in case any parent dares to default on a single day’s payment’.

He added, “When he was expecting to get served he was told he wouldn’t be allowed a meal. He burst into tears. He went to sit down and one of the mealtime assistants brought over an apple because she felt sorry for him. I was completely outraged. I hadn’t had any teacher come to tell me there was an issue. I found it horrific.”

The school has argued that they have contacted the parents on 3 separate occasions prior to the incident warning that this would happen. They claimed that the account wasn’t credited and it is within school rules that the child would be refused lunch until the account was credited.

Mr Lynn did hold his hands up and admit to forgetting to credit the account, but is disgusted at the course of action that the school took.

What do you think? Are the school right in their actions, or should the school be evaluating their practice?

How much do our children know about food?

Ok I’m sure some of my regular readers are wondering, why is he talking about food again? Well it just never ceases to be amazing what these charities can find out.

Today, we have news that almost a third of UK primary pupils think cheese is made from plants and a quarter think fish fingers come from chicken or pigs, suggests a survey by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)

Some other findings

Nearly one in 10 secondary pupils thinks tomatoes grow under ground

The survey also revealed confusion about the source of staples such as pasta and bread among younger pupils, with about a third of five-to-eight-year-olds believing that they are made from meat.

Some 19% of this age group did not realise that potatoes grew under ground, with 10% thinking they grew on bushes or trees.

The survey, produced to coincide with the BNF’s healthy-eating week, also revealed that more than three quarters (77%) of primary school children and nearly nine in 10 (88%) secondary pupils knew that people should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

However most fail to do this themselves – with 67% of primary pupils and 81% of secondary students saying they eat four or fewer portions a day.

Two in five secondary pupils said they didn’t think frozen or canned fruit and vegetables counted towards their five-a-day.

The researchers also reported that an alarming number of children do not eat breakfast each morning. The numbers skipping breakfast also increase with age. Asked whether they had eaten breakfast that morning, some 8% of primary children said they had not. This increased to nearly a quarter (24%) of 11-to-14-year-olds and almost a third (32%) of 14-to-16-year-olds.

The survey found that only 17% of UK children ate fish twice a week, the recommended amount.

So what can we do about it?

Well, in my years, I have seen a distinct lack of knowledge across the board of where food comes from. I learnt a lot of this when I used to own an allotment, where I used to grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables from potatoes to beans and tomatoes and so on. So if I can do that, why can’t we bring that into schools? I’ve grown up and worked in quite a number of both primary and secondary schools across the South West of England and have only seen a couple of schools doing something like this.

Children in the study have been found to want to cook more, with 85% across all age groups saying they liked cooking – but some 9% of primary children and 11% of secondary pupils never cook at home. This is quite a sad state of affairs when you consider that these children are going to grow into adults and when they leave school, they won’t have the basic knowledge of how to live healthily.

Roy Ballam, education programme manager at BNF called for a national framework and guidance for food and nutrition education across the UK, “especially at a time when levels of childhood obesity are soaring”.

Some 3,000 UK schools have signed up for the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week programme which Mr Ballam said aims: “to start the process of re-engaging children with the origins of food, nutrition and cooking, so that they grow up with a fuller understanding of how food reaches them and what a healthy diet and lifestyle consists of.”

A spokesman for England’s Department for Education said: “We want to encourage children to develop a love of food, cooking and healthy eating that will stay with them as they grow up.” They added that its curriculum reforms would make food and nutrition compulsory for eight-to-14-year-olds, while the new design and technology curriculum would allow teachers to explain food production.

This is something that I feel really needs addressing as a matter of urgent concern. If we can tackle this early who knows what we can achieve. Obesity may drop, or at least slow down just to name one.

Banning of daytime takeaway food – Maybe?

Ok so it came out that a councilor in the Salford area of Manchester has proposed the idea that takeaway food shouldn’t be served in the daytime so that children in the area are encouraged to eat healthier (Full article available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-22700415) so I’m going to offer my take on all this.

As a lot of you know by now as I’ve done a few posts about food lately, I am all for healthy eating, especially among children. We have far too many obese people in the country as it is, so tackling the problem from childhood is a good way to make a start.

The problem I see is how is this going to work? Children are not often allowed out of school for lunch until they are in Sixth Form in most areas to my knowledge, which means the children mentioned in the article (10-11 year olds) do not fit into this category.

I think what will actually happen is that if this ban is imposed, it will simply drive these shops out of the area. It’s not just children who use these shops as those who work or other local residents will probably want to use them too, so they are actually wiping out a market, leading to a poorer economy within the area.

This proposal is open to public consultation on the 5th July so it will be interesting to see what happens.