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UK School Lunches


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My local Japanese newspaper had an article this morning about the much-touted "new" school lunches in the UK. Comments were that the new menus were not popular, and had prompted further declines in the number of kids opting to eat school lunch, and that kids were bringing in "forbidden snacks" in larger numbers.

I'm curious to know whether most children in the UK take lunch or eat school lunch at each level of school.

I'd also love to see some sample menus for those of you with children in school!

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That's a big, complex issue. The Guardian's special feature section will go some way to answering your questions. Menus from several local authorities can be found here, along with the price list (most UK school meals are state subsidised, but not free).

Regional variations tend to make a nonsense of any nationwide assumption. For what it's worth: roughly half of primary school pupils (5-12) and about a third of secondary pupils (12+) eat school lunches. While both numbers have have been in gradual decline for decades, a sharp fall coincided with the widespread introduction of healthier menus a few years ago. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that children whose desire for junk food is matched by spending power are, in the main, choosing to buy it elsewhere. There is no substantive evidence to suggest that pupils without such resources are routinely choosing to go hungry rather than eat what's offered at school.

Now that the factual stuff is out of the way, please accept this insomniac rant:

If a kid wants burger and chips for lunch, as many invariably do, then they're welcome to go to the van parked at the school gates. If the parents choose, they're well within their rights to put a chip sandwich in their spawn's lunchbox. But that's no justification for my taxes to be paying for a tin of cow lips and a deep fat frier. Schools, from the classroom to the kitchen, should not seek inclusiveness by pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Thanks.

Edited by naebody (log)
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I'm thankful I live in a country (US) whose federal subsidized nutrition guidelines for school lunches consider catchup a vegetable. That's right you can get credit for calling catchup a vegetable. Never mind that tomatoes are actually fruit.

Seriously though I was pleasantly surprised to see the segment from Super Size Me that showed you could provide healthy school lunches for the same money as junk food.

Yes I realize this is completely off topic but if you have read many of my posts you'll see I have no shame (pride).

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Where did I see that lunches are typically charged at around GBP1.10??? Was that right? If so, it's very similar to costs here, though the amount of subsidy provided by local governments varies quite a lot.

At elementary level here (up to age 12), costs are kept down by having only one menu offered, and by charging all students (making it easier to estimate income). I don't think that schools pursue non-payers aggressively if they think there is hardship though.

Chip vans at the school gates :shock: ! That would certainly be hard for school lunch providers to compete with!

I think you might be right about the lowest common denominator factor though - it might be more effective to build kids' pride in their good eating habits.

I see that menus do seem to feature rely pretty heavily on the battered and the crumbed, with broccoli or peas and mash - how simlar do you think these menus are to what kids are eating at home these days? Are they maybe falling between two stools by being "too healthy" for the kids with really poor habits, and "too trashy" for kids who are used to eating better at home?

Mind you, my kids would set off for the UK in a rubber dinghy if they thought there was gravy at the end of the trip! Living in Japan, gravy is regarded as a treat when it appears on the table.

Guardian comments section on school lunch issue

comparisons of school lunch menus

Edited by helenjp (log)
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My daughter's primary school has a very good uptake on the school meal front. The price is £1.60 per day, and the months menu is sent home at the begining of each month. The kids also get fruit every day, and grow and cook their own vegetables, and keep chickens for eggs!. They also cook in groups of 8 every Friday often with my hubbie, when they are following "The Year of Food and Farming" When they cook, they cook enough for everyone in the school to try, and the kids are given no option, they have to try it! Last time I cooked with them I cooked Felafel with Yoghurt dip, other times we use whatever is available in other parents gardens. I have to say it is a small church funded primary school in the countryside, so the phrase "preaching to the converted" comes to mind. The kids in the high school are harder to convince, although we have 6 of them working with us for work experience this week, and they are very switched on to food. The queue at the take-away at lunch time in town is still big though!

Menu items at the primary school range from roast dinner to curry, baked potatoes and hotpot with pleanty of green veg, kale, broccoli, spinach!!

http://www.allium.uk.net

http://alliumfood.wordpress.com/ the alliumfood blog

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - Whey hey what a ride!!!, "

Sarah Poli, Firenze, Kibworth Beauchamp

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What we really need to do is make lunch part of a mandatory health and nutrition class.

Could you imagine what the food service industry would look like if they had to sell to graduates that not only talked about nutrition but then went into a kitchen and made their own lunch?

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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I'm thankful I live in a country (US) whose federal subsidized nutrition guidelines for school lunches consider catchup a vegetable. That's right you can get credit for calling catchup a vegetable. Never mind that tomatoes are actually fruit.

Just to be completely pedantic but there ain't no such thing as a vegetable in botanical terms. So there's no binary division fruit/vegetable. The tomato might be a botanical fruit but it can also be viewed as a culinary vegetable. Just like pumpkins...

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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I was personally very lucky to have the lunches i did in the latter part of my secondary education (11-16), as the new rules had just begun coming in. The catering improved greatly when I was 15, and i enjoyed the food they provided. However, i'm now 17, in my A2 year, and had to move on to a different school/college. When i arrived at my new school, the food was pretty shocking, chips available at break and lunch, so you can imagine how many people took that option. The problem was how badly it was all made.

Since then, a new head of catering has come in, and things are looking up. Which is a good sign, and hopefully representative of British school lunches as a whole. I still bring in my own lunch whenever possible, as good as the school might get, i prefer making my own food.

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I keep forgetting how many options you have. In Japan, it's not till senior high school that you have any choice, up till then it's "everybody the same" unless there is a pretty big reason why not!

So what improvements has the new head of catering made, and what kind of lunches do you make to take to school?

Sorry for all the nosy questions, but you know, it's the details that count!

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I keep forgetting how many options you have. In Japan, it's not till senior high school that you have any choice, up till then it's "everybody the same" unless there is a pretty big reason why not!

So what improvements has the new head of catering made, and what kind of lunches do you make to take to school?

Sorry for all the nosy questions, but you know, it's the details that count!

Not at all, nothing wrong at all with taking an interest.

Since then, the main difference is that things have been made less bad for you, not particularly better for you yet. All sandwiches are now brown bread, no more chocolate or sweets sold. No fizzy drinks. That kind of thing. The range of food at lunch now goes from chicken curry to fish and chips (chips are only once a week), pasta is common, tomato sauce or bolognaise.

The kind of thing i take in is things like cous cous and pasta. I'll either make a sauce the night before, or chuck in whatever is in the fridge, cold meat, vegetables. Sometimes theres leftovers from the previous night that i'll use.

Food culture doesn't seem to have evolved to this for everyone. I expect its the way i was brought up, to some people it matters more than others. I guess thats why i'm here (im 17) as opposed to my friends who aren't quite as obsessed with food as i am. If thats what tastes good to them then who am i to argue, i just prefer to eat things ive prepared myself.

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I guess thats why i'm here (im 17) as opposed to my friends who aren't quite as obsessed with food as i am. If thats what tastes good to them then who am i to argue, i just prefer to eat things ive prepared myself.

:smile: Good for you Sir.

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