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School dinners how healthy are they?

how to get your kids to eat fruit and veg

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School dinners generally get a bad rap. Most people expect little better than turkey twizzlers and blancmange. However in reality most schools are striving to feed kids decent meals on low budgets and they are doing pretty well.

School dinners food standards

The school food standards that were introduced after Jamie Oliver raised awareness through his TV campaign states that basic standards are in place such as restricting foods high in fat, salt and sugar as well as low quality reformed or reconstituted foods. They also stipulate that minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals are provided as part of an average lunch.

This said, the situation is not problem free. A study in 2011 found that school meals do lack enough fruit and vegetables and oily fish and fibre and pointed out that school meals are part of a much bigger and more complex food system including growing, cooking and eating that will all need re-vamping for us to get to the standards in school meals that our children need and deserve.

school dinners

A recent article in the Guardian attributes our nationally poor relationship with food to what happened during the second world war when food was among other things strictly rationed and went on to detrimentally affect a huge number of peoples relationship with nutrition. A beacon of hope in this situation is offered by the School Food Plan which is a number of government recommendations backed by funding to return a healthy relationship with food back to the centre of British life. One concern voiced by the Standard newspaper is that academies and free schools can opt out of food regulations.

Increase in packed lunches

More and more people are sending their children in to school with packed lunches, partly as a protest to what is on offer and whilst this is always an option it is definitely worth considering how nutritious this is as an alternative. Many of the packed lunches are based around sandwiches and crisps and research suggests that only 1% of them meet a high enough nutritional standard. One option as a parent is to ask your children’s school if you can visit and join in with a lunchtime meal. This will give you a first hand experience of the quality and taste of the meals served up and you can base your views on experience rather than hearsay or out of date opinion.

Schools are beginning to take note..

Some schools are recognising that healthy meals play a part in concentration and energy levels and that it is in everyone’s benefit to provide a good diet at lunchtime and whilst doing so, give out a strong message about the importance of nutrition. The chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Foundation stresses the importance of the head of a school being totally behind the good food campaign and says that if this is not the case then it makes it a lot harder for changes to meals to be brought in. Cooking is now compulsory in the primary school curriculum and the school food plan will ensure that children up to age 14 will be taught the wider issues of food in terms of where it comes from and how to be creative with it. Some experts are calling for a much more creative approach to cooking in schools claiming that children are bored senseless with the ‘5 a day’ teaching and instead need to be inspired to make their own recipes and really use their hands and implements in the process.

School meals are certainly not something in isolation. They are part of an enormous infrastructure around food, and operate alongside the relationship their pupils have with food in their own homes.





About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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