I'm recently back from the UK, where a lot of my friends have young children. I was interested to learn about a new rule in the England, where children aged between four and seven (reception, year one and year two) are now all eligible for a free school lunch.
The idea behind this, is a great one. I gather a significant number of young children were sent to school with a lunch box of processed junk. The same children aren’t likely to go home to a good meal either. By giving all children a hot school dinner, at least we can be certain they are getting at least one good meal a day.
There has been a lot of research on the issue, which has shown children getting a regular “healthy” meal concentrate better and perform better academically.
Whilst packed lunches are still allowed, obviously for financial and social reasons, children taking that option are likely to be in the minority.
It all sounds great
Well yes, it does all sound like a great idea. Until one of my friends showed me the kinds of food on the “healthy” school dinner menus. Of course (and how could I have expected it to be any different) the offerings are based on conventional wisdom and the good old food pyramid.
That’s right, make sure children get their six (SIX!) daily serves of grains (especially wholegrains) – and watch out for those bad saturated fats!
Here are some of the meal plans for the free school lunches:
So whilst there’s a balance of lots of different types of food – aren’t they carb heavy? With options like pizza AND potatoes, pasta bake AND garlic bread and even Macaroni cheese and bread – there seems to be quite a lack protein and fat.
What’s the answer?
Clearly nothing is going to change until the government see sense on the food pyramid. And when almost all of the school children will be eating the free school dinners, I’m sure it would be very difficult to go against the flow and insist your child takes in a homemade packed lunch.
If you’ve got children, I’d love to know what their school lunch policy is and what you do about it. Please share in the comments, below.
In case you couldn't read the photo, here are the main course school lunch options in full:
• Loaded vegetable pizza with new potatoes and garden peas
• Lentil pasta layer with mixed vegetables
• Spaghetti Bolognese with sweetcorn
• Sweet potato & cheddar cheese whirls with country style potatoes & broccoli florets
• Roast chicken with gravy, stuffing, roast potatoes and spring cabbage
• Quorn fillet with roast potatoes and carrots
• Tempura fish goujons with crispy herb and baked beans
• Cheese and potato pie with green beans
• Cumberland sausages with gravy mashed potatoes and sweetcorn
• Roasted vegetable filled Yorkshire pudding with mashed potato and baked tomatoes
• Mediterranean vegetable pasta bake with garlic bread and vegetable medley
• Jacket potato filled with Boston beans and broccoli florets
• Savoury pork pies with crispy herb potatoes and baked beans
• Frittata with crispy herb potatoes and vegetable medley
• British roast beef with gravy, roast potatoes and cauliflower
• Vegetable crumble with roast potatoes and green beans
• Salmon fish fingers with lemon mayonnaise, potato wedges and garden peas
• Cheese ploughmans with carrot and orange salad
• Chicken fajita wrap with potato salad and mixed salad
• Quorn sausage and tomato roll with potato salad and sweetcorn salsa
• Quorn balls in tomato sauce with spaghetti and garden peas
• Cheese and onion pasty with mashed potatoes, homemade tomato sauce and roasted summer vegetables
• Reggae Reggae chicken with cous cous and sweetcorn
• Margherita pizza with coleslaw
• Roast pork with gravy, apple sauce, roast potatoes and cabbage
• Country bake with roast potatoes and carrots
• Chilli beef with rice and mixed vegetables
• Macaroni cheese with herby bread and broccoli
• Baked fish with country style potatoes and garden peas
• Vegetarian stack with country style potatoes and green beans