Over the last few years, we have witnessed drastic changes to the school lunch system, beginning with Jamie Oliver outlawing the fearful “turkey twizzlers”, and continuing through the introduction of salad bars and healthier options in some schools. But now we could be facing the most radical reform yet, as the government considers enforcing a plan banning packed lunches – making a school lunch the only option.
The plan has been drawn up by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, the founders of the food company Leon, and aims to increase take up of school lunches, which are seen by the government as being a more nutritious option. In an interview, Mr Dimbleby stressed that: “more than half of children brought packed lunches into schools but that around two-thirds contained crisps or confectionery”. The plan comes at a time when child obesity is soaring to ever greater heights in the UK, with one in five children clinically obese by the time they leave primary school.
But will banning packed lunches really help our children to eat more healthily? Scientific studies actually show that only 1% of packed lunches currently meet nutritional standards, as opposed to a much higher figure for school lunches. However, many parents have expressed concerns, as there is a lack of options available for children with various dietary requirements, and children may also end up skipping lunch altogether if they don’t like what’s on offer.
The plan further recommended subsidising school lunches for children in the first year of primary and secondary school, and offering discounts for siblings. Despite this, parents could be faced with bills of up to £100 every month if they have several children in school. Other options discussed include simply banning crisps, chocolates and fizzy drinks in packed lunches, and educating children and parents on the values of eating healthily in after-school classes.
The plan has sparked debate nationwide, with some parents standing up in favour of school lunches, as they create “uniformity” and stop children eating junk food, while others feel that they themselves can provide a meal that is tailored to their child, but still nutritious, without the help of the school or the government. We would love to hear from you and create our very own discussion here on the M&D website, so please let us know what you think about this contentious reform by leaving your comments!