Fill them with knowledge, not fatty foods.
In the recent political election, the Conservatives Manifesto included the intention to cut school lunches and instead have free breakfasts, to save money. They’ve now abandoned this… interesting.
Don’t worry, this is not a political blog at all!
It merely raises the question of the role of school lunches in creating a healthy lifestyle for children.
Obesity in children is a major problem with:
- 9% of children aged 4-5 years old being obese, with a further 13% overweight.
- Also, 20% of 10-11 year olds are obese, another 14% are overweight.
(obese is defined as having a BMI in the 95th percentile or higher and overweight is defined as having a BMI in the 85th percentile or higher)
These are UK stats!
The UK has one of the worst rates of childhood obesity in Western Europe and a 2016 report by the OECD stated that UK children are more obese than the EU average.
This is obviously caused by a number of elements and no one of those can be solely blamed. But that doesn’t mean each element doesn’t have responsibility to change the way children think.
Primary school children tend to have about 6 hours a day at school. The kids often say that lunch is their favourite lesson because it’s not a lesson. But yes it is! Or at least it should be, in a sneaky way, we don’t want the children to realise they’re learning.
It’s the perfect time to teach children about healthy choices or at least show them that healthy doesn’t mean humdrum.
At the very least children need access to healthy options, which hasn’t always been the case in the past.
Five years ago, a young girl called Martha Payne started taking pictures and blogging her school lunches, giving them a ‘food-o-meter’ rating, health rating, and whether there were hairs in it – most meals weren’t particularly successful. The blog was called Never Seconds.
It really had an impact on her school, who soon offered as much salad and fruit as the pupils wanted with their lunch. Compared to her first post on the blog which was a pizza slice, a single croquette, sweetcorn and a cupcake.
She encouraged schools from around the world to post their lunches too, which often looked more nutritious and with bigger portions. Such as this meal from America:
Later, Martha’s blog become so successful that she raised thousands of pounds for Mary’s Meals, a charity that provides life-changing meals to some of the world’s poorest school children.
It caught Jamie Oliver’s eye and he showed continual support via social media. This isn’t the first time Jamie Oliver’s taken interest in the healthiness of school dinners.
You probably still remember Jamie Oliver championing the banning of Turkey Twizzlers in schools back in 2005 – removed from the menu of a school dinner provider to 2,000 state primary and secondary schools.
Although both these scenarios took a step in the right direction, the shocking stats of child obesity shows there’s much more to be done!
But with low budgets, it’s understandable that it can be difficult for schools to afford the nutritional, well-rounded portions children need.
The government offer schools £2.30 per meal and must offer free school meals to pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2. But for independent schools and those that offer meals to older years as well, the cost per meal may be even less.
Creating nutritious meals on a tight budget is really challenging, with some school dinner providers expecting to create two course meals for a budget of £1 or under.
For a head start in providing a healthy menu that comes in on budget, here are two main course options for 61p – Chicken Kebabs and Mushroom and Chickpea Burgers - and two desserts for under 50p – Strawberry Cheesecake and Upside-down Peach and Passionfruit Cake.