School Dinner vs Pack lunches...there is only one way to decide .. FIGHT!

Gaze on that healthy physique!
I’m very very old and so I started school at the beginning of the 70s (stop sniggering and no, there were not still dinosaurs) anyway. Everyone had school dinners. There were a couple of kids that had packed lunches but I think that was because they were weird had food intolerances and in the 70s you weren’t allowed to have any unusual food requests. There were no vegetarians either, well there might have been but they just got the same as the rest of us, minus the meat with an extra potato if they were lucky. School dinner was meat (or fish) and potato (mashed or boiled) and two veg, usually mashed swede (I love that!) or boiled cabbage (love that too!) or peas (processed not frozen) maybe an exotic like sweetcorn on a good day. Pasta was confined to macaroni cheese, other forms of pasta were still very new and foreign. I don’t remember rice, ever. Pudding was a stodgy sponge thing, with fruit or jam maybe, and custard (eat your lumps they are good for you). (insert spotted dick joke). There were dinner ladies too and their job was to ensure you ate everything that was put on your plate. You couldn’t refuse things. I threw up over a dinner lady that made me eat liver. I still heave just thinking about liver.

So, school dinners, they just were. You ate them and were grateful. If you were a fleabag poor you got them free and the other kids looked down on you, but at least you didn’t starve.

Then the government in their wisdom changed things, they brought in canteen style choice, chips, pizza, burgers, salads etc, let kids pick and choose what they ate, it was all very American and glossy, the kids loved it and surprise surprise they started eating crap. So parents started sending kids in with packed lunches, they were at least as healthy, usually more so and cheaper. School dinner takeup dwindled, and some areas (such as the one I live in) closed all the school kitchens and stopped doing school dinners altogether.

Some schools in our area have brought school dinners back via private companies that bring the food in and reheat it on site. It looks ok and there are healthy options….but it’s not cheap, it is not all healthy and a huge amount of what is on the menu my own DD doesn’t like, as they can choose not to eat it, she would go hungry, or just buy cakes. She takes a healthy packed lunch. There is fruit, carbs, a drink, maybe a treat such as a homemade cake.

Now the government want to mess about again and ban packed lunches. Head teachers apparently (if you believe the news) agree with this bizarre plan. I suggest that first they ensure every school has the ability to actually provide a lunch. Also to ensure that there is NOTHING unhealthy on the menu if the children are allowed to choose. And also ensure that the dinners are only a few pence a day, because as any parent knows budgeting can ensure cheap packed lunches. A loaf, some ham, hummus, cheese or tuna. Some fresh veg cut up, maybe a brown rice salad with raisins, grated carrot and some chicken. When you buy things in bulk for the week (or longer if you have a freezer) you can make lunches for pennies(ideas link).

So what do you think? Back to the ‘good old days’ of meat and two veg and being forced to eat it? Only a school cafĂ© where kids can choose? Or leave us the heck alone to feed our children? (I expect you can sense my feelings)

PS we sometimes had spam fritters in the 70s , when you pressed them with a fork, oil oozed out across the plate…yum 

Please add your own Rant via the linky thingy below.  (you know you want to)


  1. I also remember lots of children going home for lunch in the middle of the day - back in the late 1960s when most mums were at home. When they started allowing packed lunches we took that option because my mum was sick of paying for a lunch we wouldn't eat. We had meat and two veg for supper every night so a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a biscuit at lunchtime was perfect. I'd want to know that all the lunch food was cooked from scratch with no processed nuggets, pizzas, etc... otherwise it's unacceptable.

    1. Gosh I'd totally forgotten how common it was for kids to go home for lunch, I guess more mums were at home all day. I stayed for dinner once when i was supposed to go home! my mum made me wear a badge the next day to tell the dinner lady to send me home!!

  2. I had Sandwich Spread sandwiches throughout much of my secondary school days.. never did me any harm. Although now I can't eat Sandwich Spread any more. And I've got scurvy*.

    *not necessarily true.

  3. Packed Lunch people and Hot Dinner people were segregated in our school. I had a lunch box with Snoopy on it and a matching flask that didn't keep hot drinks hot or cold drinks cold.

    LET THEM EAT CAKE as someone once said...

    1. Thanks for linking, I can picture the flask, I bet it was plastic with a wide top :-)

    2. You might be right...

  4. Great linky. I just think it is sad that they feel the need to "control" everything. Why do they assume that they know best for our children?

  5. Anonymous12/7/13

    Being a poor Kahnsil estate mongrel I got free school lunches... Rather than receiving our weekly 'dinner tickets' in registration on a Monday morning along with the kids who paid we had to go and queue at morning break outside the office of the headmaster's secretary. The dinner tickets we were given had a red stripe through them, to differentiate them from the other paying kids'.

    Leaving the total humiliation aside I've got to say I really enjoyed skool dinners (apart from 'goulash' which looked and tasted like warm gristle poached in snot), and on the days when it was 'bread and pullet' for tea (a slice of bread, put in your mouth, bite down and pull it) they were doubly welcome.

    As well as this almost-a-blog comment I've posted a link to an article I wrote for 'Playground Online' magazine... I hope this is interpreted as enthusiasm for the topic (which it is) and not an attempt to hi-jack your blog (which it isn't!)... Skool dinners - for increasing numbers in these hard times undoubtedly the most important meal of the day.

  6. School dinners were revolting at Primary School, but I am exceedingly ancient and this was back in the early 60's. I remember well the overcooked roast potatoes and chunks of meat with rubbery fat on. Little wonder, then, then when I moved to secondary school, 5 minutes' bike ride from home, I chose mum's lunches. In those days, if you wanted to go home at lunch time you just walked out of the school gate; no special dispensation and no letter from parents. How times have changed.

    The one thing both schools did provide was a third of a pint bottle of milk at break time. I always drank mine with gusto... and anyone elses if I could.


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