In the News

Packed lunch
Jul 15

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet over all this talk about packed lunches being unhealthy. I really resent the Government stepping into a situation which in our household works very well, and really doesn’t need any investigating or tampering with.

In case you’ve missed it, head teachers in England are being urged to ban packed lunches to increase the take-up of school dinners and promote healthy eating, off the back of a government-commissioned review into school food by two founders of the Leon restaurant chain. According to the review, take-up of school dinners is low at 43% despite huge quality improvements. It also claims that packed lunches are nearly always less nutritious than a cooked meal.

Henry Dimbleby who runs Leon and was involved in the review, comments: “More than a half of our children bring packed lunches into school and two-thirds of those have crisps in them and two-thirds have confectionery in them… The best schools – the schools that have good food – find ways of making packed lunch the less exciting option. Some of them ban packed lunch altogether.”

My objection comes with the notion of State interference into something which should be a parental decision.

Little I is just coming to the end of her preschool year, during which time she’s been taking in packed lunches…something which I plan to continue into primary school. Like many parents I’m sure, I always try to make sure her packed lunches are healthy and nutritious, with all the main food groups being represented. Her preschool is very strict about the children eating all of the healthy options first within their lunchbox, before they’re allowed to touch their ‘treat’ (if there is one!). Little I always comes home with a completely demolished lunchbox, and she really enjoys them. She likes me to include little notes for her, which one of her teachers will read out to her. In many ways, it’s my way of connecting with her during the school day, knowing that she has a nice lunchbox which I’ve carefully prepared for her.

I’m sure I’m not alone here. Do I really need the Government to control the regularity with which food groups and processed items are included in my daughter’s lunchbox? No, thank you! I think I know enough about healthy eating to be able to take care of that myself.

While I don’t doubt the quality of school dinners has improved, it comes at a price. In the primary school that my daughter will be attending in September, school dinners come in at £2.25 a day. Often I can feed all three of us on close to that budget, and I know I can provide a healthy packed lunch for at least half that amount.

In my view, it’s what a child eats over a whole day that’s important. Singling out school dinners seems a bit short-sighted to me. What about what children are eating at home, for breakfast and their evening meal, and inbetween snacks?

While I appreciate that some children may certainly benefit from a healthy school dinner every day, I don’t agree with all families being lumped into the same bracket. And from what I’ve heard, quality of school dinners varies greatly between schools. I’m not yet convinced that we really have seen the last of the turkey twizzler!

What do you think of the Government review, and advice to ban packed lunches? Please let me know below…

About the Author

Wendy McAuliffe

Social media & online PR consultant and trainer, and ex-journalist. Founder and Director of Populate Digital and Mum of two. Living by the sea in Bournemouth. @wendymcauliffe.

  • nursebubs

    That’s crazy!!!!!!!!!!!! I insist that G takes in packed lunches. That way I know what she eats IS healthy.

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