Posted on 16 Comments

The “Packed Lunch” Debate. Pro-Choice.

I saw and read some of the comments and opinions on packed lunches, and those who are both for and against. I have to say that there is a world of difference between the quality and content of packed lunches from school to school and I’ve heard of  really good ones and some really awful ones.

With the price of a dinner ticket increasing to £2.20 per child a day, it’s not an option every parent can afford.  A friend of mine has 6 children and the costs for her for packed lunches every day would be £66 a week, or £264 a month. Not everyone can afford to pay that out every month when they could fill a lunch box with food from the fridge every day with a little planning.

I am lucky enough that if I wanted to, I could send my kids for a school dinner every day, but the big point is that they don’t always want a school dinner.  Some school dinners are ok and they are happy to eat them, but others they find awful, without taste, and complain about how disgusting they are.

I imagine it’s a bit like an NHS hospital versus a Private one, or actually, even in Aberdeen, the quality of food in the main hospital always seems to be lacking in comparison to the food at an offshoot site.

I know my kids sometimes ask for a packed lunch at Primary and sometimes ask for a school lunch.  It’s very dependent on what is on offer and what they think of how it’s cooked.

  • My kids love fish, but won’t eat the Primary school version which they complain has hardly any fish in it and looks like a sliver of grey backed dingy stuff.  I’ve not seen it so I can’t comment personally.
  • The puddings are “fine,” says my youngest.
  • Working with some children at the school, they said that most of their friends take packed lunches as the school ones are often disgusting.

If a school banned packed lunches, I think they will have overstepped the mark into parenting and choice of food for their children.

Yes, I agree that some parents might put things into school lunches that others don’t agree with, but in a few short years, they’ll head to secondary school and then just eat chips from the nearest bakery or junk food store anyway.

I don’t see the point in meeting nutritional guidelines for food that is served up if the food is poor quality and kids don’t want to eat it.  I really would grudge spending £2.20 a day for my child to eat a piece of bread and a pudding as there wasn’t anything else they wanted on that day.

I’m against school lunches being mandatory and I am for pro-parental choice.

I have no problem with guidelines and help for parents to make better packed lunch choices than some people make, but if I had a child who would only eat rice krispies and simply put their school lunch in the bin, I’d rather they ate rice krispies from a packed lunch than ate nothing at all.   Most parents can make up the difference with an evening meal and headteachers being given the option of helicoptering the parents decisions is just plain wrong.

We don’t live in a nanny state that takes decisions away from the parents in other aspects of school life, so why for food?  Why is food important to tackle, but behaviour left to the parents to cope with?  I know which one I’d rather the school took responsibility for.  Blaming all poor behaviour on diet is just plain wrong.

If our local school made school lunches mandatory, I’d move my kids to one where it wasn’t.  I have children who don’t wait in line well, and there are some days that my child just knows he can’t cope with losing 10 minutes of his lunch break standing queuing for his dinner, as it takes too much time away from getting outside and running around for exercise.


16 thoughts on “The “Packed Lunch” Debate. Pro-Choice.

  1. I think they are way over stepping the mark with this one. What I put in my kids lunches is healthy, full of energy and I know they will eat it. The same can’t be said for school dinners – given half the chance my two would just have pudding every day.

  2. It is wrong for any school to dictate what a child eats for lunch – surely that is the parents job? If packed lunches are being fazed out, there will be a) a lot of very hungry children in the afternoons, b) a lot of children unable to concentrate due to being hungry, which will then lead on to poor results, which, in turn, and probably more importantly as far as the school is concerned, will lead to a drop in Ofsted inspection results, and c) a lot more money being claimed in benefit towards free school meals. This is a very big deal and needs to be addressed in my opinion, before our children are faced with a world of choice being something they no longer understand. Another stupid, ill thought out idea that has caused uproar once again amongst parents of school age children.

    CJ x

    1. I see it as the parent choice. I agree with everything you say as lots of children just won’t stand in line for a meal. The queues would be horrendous if every child took up the school lunch option.

  3. My daughter has 2 days of school dinners and 3 days of packed lunch. Personally (as I hate making packed lunches) I’d be happy for her to have one every day, but its never going to happen because she’s a fussy eater and won’t eat what is on offer on the other 3 days. I’d be paying for it, but she’ll go hungry.

    With this debate I think if they want more people to take up eating school dinners they have to make them cheaper. Banning packed lunches is only going to make a lot of parents very cross.

  4. My daughter has 2 days of school dinners and 3 days of packed lunch. Personally (as I hate making packed lunches) I’d be happy for her to have one every day, but its never going to happen because she’s a fussy eater and won’t eat what is on offer on the other 3 days. I’d be paying for it, but she’ll go hungry.

    With this debate I think if they want more people to take up eating school dinners they have to make them cheaper. Banning packed lunches is only going to make a lot of parents very cross.

    1. Banning packed lunches might make a lot of parents take their kids home. I can’t see mandatory school lunches happening in state schools (hopefully), though I can see it being a staple in private schools. People can afford great food and tailored meals there anyway so it’s not a good comparison.

  5. They’re MY children and therefore *I* choose what they eat. I choose if they’ve behaved well enough to get a treat, and if I’m willing to spend £2.29 on school lunch or if we can’t afford that at a certain point in the month, ie Christmas.

    People need educated and not dictated to.

    1. Yup, that’s it in a very well worded nutshell.

  6. I would be furious if they took away the ability for me to make a packed lunch for my child when he reaches school age in a year. His packed lunch will be one of the ways I show him I’m thinking about him while he’s at school. I am also perfectly well qualified in food safety and food quality and have some knowledge of nutrition. I bet my meals for my son will be more interesting and tasty than anything the school canteen will offer.

    When I was at primary school, the dinners used to come in from another school for the 5-6 children who chose to have them. They were always lukewarm (safe, nice!) I refused to eat them after 2 days.

    When I was at secondary school, canteen lunches meant enormous queues. Then, if I’m honest it all tasted bad so I used to chose the cheapest thing on the menu and keep the change (sorry Mum).

    I’m not against giving parents some guidelines about what to include and what not to but to ban them altogether seems ridiculous.

    1. As would I. I like the ability to choose to provide a packed, or let them have a school lunch on days when time is short or there is something on the menu they like. I hated school meals as a child, but few of us ever stayed at school for lunch and it’s completely different now. I’m with you on this one.

  7. Honestly, I can’t make myself that het up about the issue either way. Compared with issues around assessment, streaming, provision for special needs, religion in the classroom, funding for buildings, lack of sporting provision, gender stereotyping, differential achievement among ethnic groups, pressure on teachers from inspections, and crumbling school buildings – does it REALLY matter that one academic report merely suggested it might be a good idea to have compulsory school meals? Really?

    Evidence suggests children who eat with peers are less fussy than those who don’t. In schools where meals are compulsory, there’s predictable demand and income, allowing the school to benefit from greater economies of scale, and provide a better choice and quality of meals for children. Flea goes to a school with compulsory school meals and from my perspective, it’s great – she’s happy, there’s a good choice, it’s one less thing to worry about.

    Just makes me wonder if people aren’t trying to paint the deck chairs while the Titanic’s sinking…

    1. You’re lucky in that you can both afford mandatory school dinners, and are also happy with the quality of food that is provided so I can see why the issue isn’t one that would bother you and that’s fine.

      It isn’t the same everywhere though. If one school has implemented it, there is the possibility that others could. Where we are, there is not the opportunity to move schools in the same way as there is in England so most would pretty much be dictated to with no alternative other than home school. or home lunch. I have 3 children with special needs and I’ve learned that the likes of crumbling buildings just don’t matter one little bit. What is important is the quality of people who interact and take responsibility for our children daily, including taking responsibility for the quality of meals. The meals in secondary school here are infinitely more appealing to the kids and more likely to be eaten, but give the kids more choices with slightly more unhealthy foods, but at least they eat something and I can make up for that with their evening meal.

  8. Agreed. And in primary school it’s not even a big deal, there’s not the big divide that can sometimes (or, at least, did in my school) crop up when some are getting school dinners and some aren’t. Secondary school is when it all gets treacherous, in more ways than just food-related. I keep trying, slowly but surely, to get my 9-year-old daughter to try new foods when we’re out on our daddy-daughter days, but she often likes to stick to chicken nuggets and chips or just hotdogs in a sandwich. However, she also eats a lot of fruit and drinks plenty water. If we get snacks or ice cream that’s usually my fault. So I don’t mind her “fussy” eating habits just now, especially while she’s doing better than I ever did at her age when it comes to having a sweet tooth.

    1. Secondary is a minefield. Parents can rarely make choices there. Our school tries to get round that by using a card system where parents charge up the card, but all the kids do is sell the £10 on their card to a mate who has a fiver in his pocket so they still get access to money somehow. Primary is quite easy and I don’t see the need for mandatory school meals. All I could see by that is a lot of empty bellies.

  9. My boys take a packed lunch, and will never stop taking them. our school doesn’t allow and chocolate, crisps, pastries, or sweets. No canned drinks or bottles of fizzy pop. I personally think schools need to toughen up when it comes to the packed lunch, stop the children eating rubbish, demand the parents follow the rules, then bobs your uncle… As for school dinners, I as invited in to have a dinner with jnr recently, and on the menu was spaghetti Bolognese, i had a big late full, it was lamb or beef it was a glass of water not juice and it tasted disgusting. The childrens plates were still full, then they went to play, no food, hungry and went to play. ….

    1. Our school is a health promoting school so has the same request as yours does. Children who want to take food that isn’t supposed to be on the menu will take it in school bags whether they get a packed lunch or not once they’re past a certain infant age. Your experience of school dinner invitations mirrors mine I have to say. If adults wouldn’t eat it, why do they think kids would.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *