The news at the moment has headlines about banning packed lunches and giving all children free school dinners. Although the idea behind ensuring all children have healthy meals is a worthwhile one, here is why I will never back banning packed lunches:
1. Unless school dinners are made free, many families simply cannot afford them. At our local primary school dinners are a fairly reasonable £2 each but with two children that’s £20 a week, which is a hefty sum on a tight budget.
2. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are many small primary schools. At primary age especially I think it’s important for children to be in smaller schools, not massive multi-form entry industries. Small schools work on a small budget and may not be able to have a kitchen and catering staff. Large schools have different but equal problems in catering for all children.
3. I was an extremely anxious child, and am probably mildly autistic. I refused to even consider eating school dinners unless my sister sat with me. As my sister is five school-years older than me, we only went to the same school for a year. My mum then made me packed lunches because at least she’d know I’d eat then. The familiarity of the same foods that I knew worked best for me.
4. Some children are extremely fussy eaters. This is not down to parental pandering or ‘letting them get away with it’ but can be for a variety of reasons (like me, above). These children will not eat school dinners so will not be getting any nutrition during the day.
5. Some children have medical conditions that require a special diet. Some children have religious requirements. A one-size-fits-all, two-option dinner is not going to be able to cater for all the different requirements for all medical, cultural, or other reasons. The only way to cater for all children would be prohibitively expensive to run.
I do love school dinners for my children. I actually dislike making packed lunches and having school dinners is a wonderful option. At the moment DG is at pre-school so has to have packed lunches on the days she stays for lunch and MG has a mix of three days school dinners and two days packed lunches. When they are both in full-time schooling from September, we’ll continue with the mix unless circumstances change.
MG’s nutritionally balanced lunches have a dessert every day and include pizza, and fish and chips. It therefore seems ludicrous to me that parents can be banned from including crisps and sweets in packed lunches, which can still be nutritionally balanced even with ‘unhealthy’ snacks as part of them.
I live in an area where there is little deprivation and the families at the local school are generally ‘well-educated’ so we’re unlikely to be targeted by schemes for poor children. I know we are very fortunate to live where we are and children in deprived areas may not be so lucky. But I detest the privileged / deprived boundary, where the ‘privileged’ government assumes the ‘deprived’ masses are ill educated and incapable of raising children.
What are your thoughts on school dinners and packed lunches? I do love to hear different opinions. Thank-you!