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 café 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 

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