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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
How can school dinners be improved?
Some primary school dinners are "muck off a truck" according to a new survey by The Soil Association.

The organisation which promotes organic food says prisoners are being given better quality meals than primary school children.

They say 36 pence, or less, is spent on the ingredients for a school lunch - compared to 60 pence for a prisoner's.

It also says pupils are getting too much processed food - high in fat, sugar and salt.

How can school dinner standards be improved? What would you like to see on the menu?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

This topic was suggested by Mark Blackman, UK
Should a nutritional standard for school meals be re-introduced?

It's about time that schools went back to serving nutritious food instead of pandering to the cheap cafe choice culture. Make it affordable and ban pupils from descending on town centres and supermarkets at lunchtimes. That way the pupils won't waste even more money on 'cheap muck' and the rest of the community won't have to put up with the attitude either!
David Clarkson, Scotland, UK

It would be nice if school meals were made of locally produced products. It seems that the food that the children can choose from is often junk in nature and mass produced goodness knows where.
Sheena Dickson, Scotland

The greatest educational improvement my council has found is where students get free breakfasts. The pensioners lobby will oppose any Council Tax increase to cover the cost and they vote, few parents do. So parents please get involved.
Councillor, UK

My friend is a great chef, his daughter is 13. When we all dine out we all eat a healthy choice from the adult menu (with portion control) and will always try new food. How many other children do you know that will eat gorgonzola or whitebait? Why not make school meal times more interesting, fun and educational e.g. theme days, prizes etc
Helen, UK

Stop serving the unhealthy foods and then kids can't eat them. If you are unhappy with school meals take your own, they are cheaper and far more tastier and you know what goes in them. Why not serve only sandwiches, soup and fruit at lunch? A main evening meal should be provided at home not school.
Claire Herbert, UK

If school meals are anything like they were ten years ago, then something definitely needs to change. We had very little in terms of fresh fruit, vegetables or meat, instead having flat, soft, processed beef burgers, burnt sausages, and this odd coloured custard for dessert. And they criticise parents for giving their kids processed food?
Darryl LeCount, Bristol, UK

My children have always been expected to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit (often more than 5 a day) at home - which is precisely why they choose junk food if they ever have a school dinner, and why I nearly always give them packed lunches instead. It is because they get enough of 'healthy' food that they don't choose it at school. In any case, I've yet to see a school serving 'serious' vegetables like broccoli, though my children eat them without complaint at home.
Deborah, UK

As a cook in a local authority primary school I have to disagree with some comments on school dinners
Alison Philip, Wales
As a cook in a local authority primary school I have to disagree with some comments on school dinners. We offer a packed lunch if required the boiled rice we serve is wholegrain as are the spaghetti hoops! The children don t even know as I'm sure if they had the slightest idea it was a healthy choice they would avoid it like the plague! Yes there are chips served but also salad, pasta, jacket potatoes are also available. I would welcome anyone into my kitchen at school as would my headteacher so stop tarring every school meals provider with the same brush and take a look at some who care!
Alison Philip, Wales

My kids junior school stopped supplying dinners as the caterers could not meet set standards! Totally correct in my and most other parents views whose children use the school. The dinners were reinstated after several months with a menu parents were allowed to view and decide if they wanted their child to use this facility. 95% of parents took up the dinner option - given the choice parents are willing to pay a bit more.
Nick S, UK

What's wrong with eating a home-made sandwich for lunch? And if schools are afraid parents won't give their children something to have for lunch, why can't schools just provide a roll or a sandwich instead of chips and other greasy deep fried food? I've never had a school dinner in my life and am still living on sandwiches for lunch! Everyone seems to think it's quite normal for children to have a warm meal at lunchtime and again one at night, but I don't. No wonder there's so many fat kids around!
Henk, Scotland, ex Netherlands

Make a school recipe book - each parent contributes. Decide which are feasible to be cooked in quantity. Make a deal with fresh foods - fowl, fish, veg and fruit suppliers. Get volunteer help if necessary. Serve buffet style, with fresh fruit for dessert. Remember some kids love fresh raw pepper, tomatoes etc... but hate them cooked. Limit salt and sugar intake by making desserts based on fresh yoghurt or fruit, as above.
Tanja Cilia, Malta

When I was at school a few years back the meals were good, but we did have a kitchen on-site and the contractor was half-owned by the county council which probably helps.
Carl, UK

Today there are too many choices for kids. If you give kids a choice of potatoes or chips which do you think they would choose? One choice, one meal. A good hearty meal may not need to cost the earth, but how many people would agree to have their taxes put up if they thought the future generation could eat better? Good meals and exercise is what the kids need, not chips and playstations... we have to look after our future, as in years to come we hope they will look after us.
Yvonne, Scotland

When I was at school (80s and early 90s) I was only allowed school dinners once a week, the rest of the time I had a packed lunch as the dinners were so unhealthy. Choice was sausage and chips, sausage in batter and chips or fish and chips. I must admit to being shocked that nothing has changed. Children in schools should be getting a varied healthy diet and experiencing different foods as they would abroad. Children are given too little credit and encouraged to become fussy about food.
Joanna, Cambs, UK

As an ex-prisoner, albeit many years ago, the difference between school meals and prison food was minimal. I remember it all as wholesome stuff and just couldn't understand if people complained about it. I don't know what prison food is like today but I do realise through my own children that the basic quality of school dinners has diminished drastically. Kids are just too 'picky' nowadays, but a lot of them will have the chance of tasting prison food too, going by the falling standards in behaviour.
Anon, UK

When television constantly broadcasts that veg are for geeks and losers, how can you expect the kids to believe it's good for you?
Andrew G, United Kingdom
The problem with having a set menu and being told what too eat and when. If the child doesn't like what they are eating then how can you expect them too be forced. Fresh fruit and veg are all very good for growing kids but when television constantly broadcasts that veg are for geeks and losers, how can you expect the kids to believe it's good for you? Dinners should be varied and healthy too many people worry about too many things and this is why we have eating disorders, when the choice is between the rubbish at the school cafeteria and the chip shop I remember which one I chose.
Andrew G, United Kingdom

If children were only given healthy food they would have no option but to eat it, but too many parents give their children processed junk food every single day. If parents won't teach their children what to eat, then why should they expect the school to? Not all education is the responsibility of the school.
Kate, UK

Having lived in many different countries I have never seen so many puffy pasty young children as I have in England. Firstly, change the school dinner suppliers. Secondly, provide smaller portions of more wholesome unprocessed food. Thirdly, eliminate choice and provide a fixed menu. The little dears may whine, but they will thank you one day when they can run across the road without puffing.
Mike, England

I clearly remember school dinners in the 70's and dreaded any type of stew or casserole. You were guaranteed to find gristle! One gets the impression that vegetables in this country means chips and baked beans! Let's get decent lean meat and vegetables, with fresh or tinned fruit on the menu. For some kids, the school dinner is their main meal of the day.
Elaine, UK

There is a simple method: all the school staff should eat the same school dinners (a daily fixed menu) as the children every day. All government MPs and their children should eat the school dinners produced by the school catering service assessed as the worst in the country. The hypocrisy of politicians in relation to education and health will only be addressed when they start to take their own medicine. When I was at school, the teachers sat at the head table and ate the same food as the children. And the food was good: there were always queues for "seconds".
Lucas, UK

School meals may be bad but the answer is not throwing money at the problem, it hasn't worked for the health service, has it? The caterers should be set nutritional targets and if they cannot be met then they should loose their contract and it be awarded to someone who can.
Duncan, UK

There is a mind set in this country that seems to think that kids like rubbish food. This ranges from the school dinner hall to pubs and restaurants. Once this attitude is changed only than can the meals improve. Kids like a lot more than they are given credit for.
MS, London

When I was at school, the food was barely edible, they should have more fresh fruit and vegetables available, encourage healthy eating and there is too much processed food on the menu, with not enough exercise to burn it off. Is it any wonder that obesity is becoming a rising issue in Britain today?
Laura Stockley, England

Hire a team of mums to design the school menu
Joanna, UK
Here's how to solve the problem. Hire a team of mums to design the school menu. I would even suggest holding a national cooking competition of mums with school aged children for the best recipes. Get the parents involved. They will choose a balanced diet for their children and no doubt a lot of the junk food will be eliminated. Also, assigning a lunch number to each child and sending home a report of everything they purchased for lunch will help the parents know what their children are eating.
Joanna, UK

When I first heard this headline grabbing statistic on the radio news I couldn't help thinking: The average prisoner is an adult. The average schoolchild is a child. McDonalds make Happy Meals¿ for a reason you know. They're smaller portions. Please compare like with like and stop forming ridiculous comparisons such as this.
Lee, UK

When I was at school, I could see the deterioration of the meal quality over the years. Primary school was fantastic. Proper food, soups were usually broths, meat and two veg (except Fridays when we had fish, chips and peas) and proper home baked deserts like sticky toffee pudding with custard. This was always a set menu, no choices. Secondary school usually offered good choices, but the junk food was creeping in with pies, hot dogs, burgers and lots of chips. This was the 70's and 80's when processed food was relatively rare. I hate to think what it's like now. Until we get back to set menus for primary and healthier choices in secondary all cooked on site I feel there is little hope.
Steve, Scotland

It's simple - if you cut staff and resources then don't be surprised if the standards drop and the food is produced for the ease of the company rather than the health of the children. The amount of money available has to be at a level where a decent meal (as opposed to a statutory meal) can be produced, and if this means parents paying more then I'm afraid that's the way it has to go. No parent should begrudge paying the going rate for five quality meals per week for your child, yet as in so much these days, people expect something for nothing.
David Priddy, UK

After 30 years this debate has brought back some horrendous memories and tastes of my school lunches. I categorically refuse to believe that today's can be any worse. It would be impossible, unless they have now resorted to serving pet food.
Pete, UK

Reading through the comments it's clear that education needs to start at home, if children are used to eating fresh fruit and vegetables they are more likely to chose them. Unfortunately, there are too many families where both parents work and they do not always have the time to prepare meals, so the ready made junk food is the easy option. We choose to give our children packed lunch because school meals do not provide the necessary nutritional value.
Karen Warnaar, England

I am 10 years old and I think that school dinners need changing as they are not very tasty. I think that we should have more selection and better quality foods. Why should we be treated worse than prisoners as we have not done anything wrong??
Stephen Radford, England

Shows the governments sense of priorities when it pays less for children's lunches than prisoners. It would be interesting to know if there is a difference between school canteens which have been outsourced to large contract caterers, and those which retain local control. Contractors have to make a profit and fund their expansion plans.
Mark, Scotland

When I was at Primary School in Scotland there was no choice for food. It was one set meal and if you didn't like it tough - you had to finish it. The headmaster would patrol the dinner hall and if you didn't finish your plate, or if you were caught swapping food the short leather strap he carried with you would remind you of the rules - this was the early 70s and I was only five at the time!
Graeme, England

The problem is not confined to schools. Next time you eat out anywhere, take a look at the children's menu. You are likely to find only highly processed foods such as 'turkey dinosaurs' and, of course, chips. The theme seems to be that if you offer bad food then the children will choose bad food then it becomes uneconomic to offer anything else.
Mike Grimes, UK

It is appalling that school children get less spent on their school meals than prisoners. How can we expect to educate children properly when their brains are slow through lack of nutrition?
Liz, England

How can authorities who are responsible for these kids during school hours be so irresponsible?
Miland Joshi, UK
I'm surprised that it's even legal to deliberately serve children unhealthy and unbalanced diets which will compromise their health later on. How can authorities who are responsible for these kids during school hours be so irresponsible?
Miland Joshi, UK

Firstly, more money is needed for school meals. Then, secondly that money needs to be used to produce meals that children will enjoy that are healthy.
Keith D, North East, England

We had a similar uproar at work when the food in the canteen was switched to the 'heated up' variety rather than having our very qualified chefs. Efforts to save a 'fast buck' only epitomise the capitalist culture.
Andy H, England

You get what you pay for. Is it not obvious that if school meals were increased in price the quality should improve? The question should be asked "how many parents would be prepared to pay more for school meals assuming the quality would improve?"
Bob Potter, Southern England

Perhaps if we returned to school meals being provided by local education authorities, rather than profit-driven private corporations?
Ben Drake, York, UK

Oh, the foul and horrendous memories that come flooding back, when reading about school dinners. One of the happiest days of my early childhood, was when it was announced that we'd be allowed to bring packed lunches as of the next term. I always felt very sorry for most of my friends, who had to endure the ghastly concoctions that oozed their way out of the school kitchens. I cannot imagine things have improved in the last twenty years. Scrap school dinners. For those entitled to free school meals, an alternative should be sought - state issue, ministry of health approved packed lunches, for example. But school dinners, the bane of many a young lunchtime, should be scrapped entirely.
Andrew, British in the Netherlands

Bring back the school kitchen and cooks
Jane, UK
I am currently in discussion with a large organisation who has the monopoly on school dinners providing 550 plus schools in the UK. My 14 year old daughter and her friends have Chicken Burger and Chips and a carton of drink everyday for their lunches. There is no fresh veg, salad selection is limited and if you are on "second sitting" then you have had it. So for over three years she has eaten chicken burger and chips with drink. This costs approx £2 per day. Yet the company who provide the lunches say this is a healthy lunch. I think it is time that the school had a kitchen and meals were cooked on the premises. I used to love school dinners especially at primary school. At secondary school we always had a reasonable choice - bring back the school kitchen and cooks.
Jane, UK

As I child attending school in the UK, I have pleasant memories of school lunches. The time to sit down, the use of proper plates and flatware instead of the plastic in use today and the teachers instilling proper table manners. I dont recall having ever having chips. The rubbish that we serve our children, on disposal plates teaches no values, no commitment to the environment and certainly little manners. Disposal culture, disposal children.
Janeen, UK

I left school a year ago, and the dinners there really were appalling. The only remotely healthy options were jacket potato and cheese, or pasta and cheese. The other choices were regular chips, curly chips, beef burger, chicken burger, cheese burger, veggie burger and pizza. They had about 5 pieces of fruit for the week, for a school of over 1000 children, and the school is littered with sweet and pop machines. No wonder there's a problem with child obesity.
Jenni, UK

In this country we seem to have got ourselves in a situation where vast numbers of parents really have no idea how to eat healthily. They seem to think it's perfectly OK to eat junk food several times (if not more) every week. Since they have limited conception of what constitutes a healthy diet. Their children are not being advised by them in matters of food, so at school they will choose junk i.e processed)/fried food if available. This situation doesn't occur in France, Italy, etc because everyone takes more interest in food and wouldn't dream of eating junk food more than occasionally, if at all! Personally I think school meals should only offer healthier options, which doesn't mean no chips ever, but meals based on real meat and real vegetables which are naturally low in sugars, salt and preservatives. Heaven knows what the current generation of kids will serve their children if this vicious circle isn't broken.
Tony, UK

The state should not be expected to feed our children well at school, if we can't feed them well at home
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey
I seriously doubt that the current state of the school meals are any worse than the meals in an average UK home. The state should not be expected to feed our children well at school, if we can't feed them well at home.
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey

The problem with all foods of this type is it's mass produced to feed a few hundred school children. Maybe a way of improving the standards would be to cook the food in smaller amounts so that it can be prepared and cooked properly
Jon S, UK

I agree with the muck description but its not just school dinners that are muck. Most of our food is muck and we seem to like it that way! Too much fat, salt, sugar and way too many chemicals.
Mr brooks, UK

Improve school dinner standards by swapping the prisoners' allowance with the school children's one and then take another 6 pence off the prisoner allowance. Prison should be a punishment and place to be feared. Many of our young children however could at least be assured of one healthy, nutritious meal each day in a society where fewer families eat together and more regularly buy junk food
Mark Ryan, UK

My children attend a Catholic primary school in the London Borough of Brent. I was very pleased to see the excellent range of healthy and varied food available for lunches provided by the Council. The children are encouraged to eat fruit, yoghurt and salads, and there are the traditional favourites also like fish, baked beans, and roast dinners. The Council also provides each child with a termly cycling menu so parents can discuss and advise children as necessary. My children regularly eat salads, fruit and plenty of vegetables for lunch. Well done Brent Council.
Steve Langley, UK

Kids love bad food
Jeff Doley, UK
Primary school dinners are a British tradition. It may be muck off a truck but it's not done me any harm, or any other adult living today in the UK. Kids love bad food and will eat bad food whether adults like it or not
Jeff Doley, UK

I'd like to take issue with people who say we should provide "free or subsidised fruit", and people who whine about low-income families. A can of soft drink costs around 50p while an apple can be bought for closer to 30p. Burger and chips can cost £2 or more - enough to make a healthy sandwich using wholemeal bread. This isn't a question of dropping prices and whining about family budgets, it's about having the sense to spend wisely.
Dave Tankard, UK

I was always given a packed, homemade lunch in my primary school days (early 90's). What's more, I had to prepare it all myself, shock horror! Now I have started University, I am surprised to see that many of my peers do not know how to prepare a lunchtime meal - most notably those who had school dinners!
Jenny, UK

I work in a school kitchen and we never serve chips, always have a fully stocked salad bar and fruit bowl, and daily provide two freshly made main meals, not too mention soup. A lot of the kids take advantage of this, however it's still their choice whether to eat well or to eat rubbish.
Becky, UK

I attended a school in Mitcham, Surrey in the late 40s. As young people we were subjected to the worst filth presented as school dinners. Many of my fellow students were nauseous regularly and anybody that did not eat the muck was punished. It would seem that some things never change. I feel sorry for the poor children that are still having to put up with it. By the way are they still telling them "It Builds Character"?
John Fenton, Canada

When I was at school they had this idea that you pay the amount the meal cost. Chips were cheaper than pizza, veggies, etc. so us economical children decided to save the difference between the cost of a healthy and unhealthy meal and spend that on a treat like a banana or chocolate bar.
Chris L, UK

Thinking that educating children will cause them to make proper food choices is ludicrous. Children will eat what tastes the best, sweetest, saltiest, richest, when allowed to choose on their own. Providing better food and eliminating the option to eat "junk" is the only way to get children to eat properly.
Anna, UK

My children were brought up with a diet of mainly rice and pasta and not potato. Most children's menus in or out of school consist of potato (mainly chips). We need to cater more for children who do not like or would prefer a choice other than potatoes. As said by others vegetables need to be cooked in a way to retain their goodness and not over cooked as they are in most bulk canteens.
Trevor, UK

Close all tuck shops. Don't sell full-sugar soft drinks. Provide free or subsidised fruit.
James, UK

Make sure the food is cooked as it should be to preserve the nutrients needed - like vegetables being crunchy and more tasty than if they were soggy and overcooked (normal in mass produced food). Also introduce smoothies, freshly squeezed juices and kids will soon take an interest - and they are among the best quality you can get.
Mike, London, UK

Pupils are not given a choice in English between reading, say, a Carnegie or Newbery Medal-winner or the latest copy of Heat magazine. So why do we give pupils a choice between healthy fresh produce and junk at lunchtime? School lunches could be valuable learning opportunities tied in with classroom activities, as well as well as educating children to eat well.
Peter Barber, Scotland

Meals should be better, but not at a price of taste and money
Henry, Devon, England
Of course children need good healthy food, but some schools take it too far, by only providing cheese and onion pasties and "low-sugar" expensive organic fruit drinks and food. This puts the price of all food up considerably, making "healthy" food much more expensive, because less food is sold. It's unwanted. People want traditional English meals, not new low sugar drinks and substitute food. Of course children need vitamins and minerals, but remember it's the children that count. It's them that have to eat it. Ask them! A mix is needed of traditional meals (if people have liked them for hundreds of years, why not now?), as well as healthy and good quality. Meals should be better, but not at a price of taste and money.
Henry, Devon, England

I work in a school kitchen and we can give out all the vegetables, salad and fruit we like but it all comes back un eaten as the staff in the hall do not insist that it is eaten, like I was made to in my Junior School days (30 years ago).
Donna Hutchings, England

I think there should be a wider variety of healthy foods, so there is sure to be some that the children will like and chips should not be the main carbohydrate every day if they served more pasta dishes it would be an improvement. Another idea is that the letters could be sent out to all the parents, so that they can decide what they don't want their children eating and what they want them to eat more of.
Kay, UK

When I was at school there was less choice than now and I have to say that I didn't particularly enjoy my school dinners. However there were always a couple of dinner assistants on hand who we were terrified of, and we all used to eat the majority of our food as we weren't allowed up from our seats until the dinner lady was happy that we had eaten enough. My own children now have school dinners and I am not too happy when they come home and say that they had pizza or a tuna roll for lunch.

If you are not happy with food at the work canteen you could simply go somewhere else. The children at school simply can't do this. There should be less choice but the choices available should be better quality and value. School dinners should not be a profit making initiative and should provide good quality meals for all children. I also think that people who send their children to school with a packed lunch are probably pandering to their children's fussy eating habits and so constitute to the problem of low quality, unhealthy options provided.
Amanda, UK

A lot of staff canteens in big companies now have themed days. So you can have a vegetarian day, Italian day, Mexican day etc, and chips and fish etc are only available on Friday. Each day there is also sandwiches, baked potatoes, salads, fruit etc. This would introduce more variety and encourage children to try new foods. Many parents have suggested that chocolate should only be available at afternoon break, so hopefully hungry children will be persuaded to buy something else at lunch instead. You could have fruit, nuts etc available at morning break.
Lucy, UK

I fail to understand why children are feed meals by schools in the first place? Are these places of education or child minding facilities for lazy parents? If parents had any consideration for the health of their children they would ensure that they instigated good nutrition in the home and they would encourage their children to eat wholesome food such as home-made sandwiches. I simply would not allow my children to eat in school canteens more than once a week - period. It is nothing short of lazy parenting and why on earth should it be the responsibility of the state to feed children!
Sandi Ashworth, UK (ex New Zealand)

High nutritional standard are generations overdue
James, UK
It is a myth that school dinners were better in the past. At my school in 70s and early 80s almost every meal was a way of serving mince. Chilli con carne, curry, spaghetti bolognese, cottage pie. All the vegetable always seemed like they had been boiled for hours. And all those huge portions of old-fashioned pudding could have been good for us. High nutritional standard are generations overdue.
James, UK

I'm a Governor of my children's local infants school, and although I am not responsible for the catering, I do know that £1.55 for a meal and a drink is an average price - and most schools will lose money on the kitchen. I will say that our particular school does serve roast dinners once per week, and chips are not served more than once. There is always fruit and vegetables available. As for children being able to eat with a knife and fork I agree with the comment earlier, most in reception year cannot (4 and 5 year olds) use cutlery.
K Smith, UK

My son constantly complains about the quality of vegetables in his school meals, they are soggy and virtually tasteless. The meals cost £1.35 per day and if they are on the last sitting, there is very little left to chose from... but always loads of chips!
Niki Hannah, England

The Soil Association should not tar all schools with the same brush. We are a small primary school with just 100 children. Our school dinners are great, so is our cook! Most of the staff eat school dinners and more and more children are doing so as well.
Rod Woodhouse, UK

Initially I let my daughter have school meals, when she first started school last year. I was quite annoyed she only ever said she had processed food, i.e. chicken nuggets, potato shapes etc. After having brought her up to eat a wide variety of foods (as instructed by all health professionals around) I was shocked at what the school was doing. I had already seen a school menu (produced by the local authority) and couldn't understand why my daughter was making the choices she was. After much questioning of staff (including the head) I eventually had the answer I was looking for. The local authority supply a wide choice on their menu and it is up to each individual school to choose what they serve. It turned out that when our particular school served 'alternative healthy dishes' i.e. those with rice, pasta and salad, the children didn't eat them, which resulted in parents complaining that their children were hungry and thus these healthy meals were swiftly removed at the request of many parents. Maybe the situation is not quite as straight forward as we think!
Mrs Esther White, England

It is all very well saying that it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure that their children are fed properly. But what about the children who come from very low income families, where there school meal is their only proper meal?
Kay, UK

I am truly amazed at what our children are given to eat in school - a well rounded education should educate children on nutrition in practice as well as theory.
Cosima Wagner, UK

The biggest problem is the external catering companies who will a) win the contract by quoting the lowest possible price, then b) serve up non-nutritious, re-heated cheap rubbish in order to preserve their profit margin.
I used to work for a company that made food-service products - a number of products were full of water, bulkers, fat, and if you were lucky, mechanically separated meat in order to meet the low cost requirements of the caterers. (I was actually responsible for designing the forming plates for the chicken 2000s mentioned below - sorry for that one!)
They really need to think about re-fitting the schools kitchens and go back to cooking on site from fresh ingredients.
Chris, UK

My two boys both have school meals. The primary school is too small to have its own kitchen, so it buys the meals in from another local school. They changed the supply school recently as the quality was very poor. Now the children get meals that the teachers pay money to have. This includes roast dinners etc. What worries me is that many of the children have not be taught how to use a knife and fork properly, so the parents can hardly complain about the quality of the school dinners.
Paul, England

I remember my meals from my (poor quality inner-city) primary school, which, 16 years ago had a "traffic light" scheme for each meal - there was a red/amber/green option every day coloured by how healthy it was! What happened?
Ant, Durham, UK

School dinners should not be the prime concern in primary or any school system
Mohinder L. Jerath, USA
School dinners should not be the prime concern in primary or any school system. Schools as always have first responsibility for education and other related aspects. Feeding and nutrition of school or any children is the responsibility of parents. Children are in school from about 8am to 4pm and for lunch soup and sandwich or some thing more should be enough. Breakfast and evening meal at home with parents should be the major concern and that is the responsibility of the parents. As far as prisoners, on the other hand, they are the ward of the State by their forced imprisonment thus making the necessary and adequate nutrition the responsibility of the state. Prisoners are imprisoned for their freedom and not to deny them food as punishment.
Mohinder L. Jerath, USA

The answer is fairly simple and could stay well within budget. Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt intake by cooking food on site rather than buying in manufactured muck and offering chips, etc perhaps only 2-3 times a week, not every day.
Baked Potatoes with various fillings - coleslaw, stir fried veggies, etc Pasta dishes with fresh sauces or lasagnes (maybe veggie lasagne to hide those vegetables in). Rice dishes - mild curries (not the English ones with sultanas in), chilli con carne, or veggie chilli. Home made pizza, etc
Ian, UK

I don't see how it could be difficult? Fresh vegetables are cheap. Beans are cheap. Mashed potato isn't more expensive than chips. They're all healthy choices. The problem is that a lot of kids don't get good food at home either. My mum's experience as a teacher was that kids won't eat roast potatoes (because they're not chips), won't touch custard and many kids only eat finger food as they're given nothing more than burgers and chips at home.
Rick, UK

In answer to the original question, I'm shocked to hear there isn't a nutritional standard for school meals. As for school meals in general, at least in the UK the option is provided, here in Holland the tradition of stay at home mothers is so strong that all children are expected to go home for lunch, leaving those of us who work with a tricky problem.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex UK

If parents aren't happy with the food served by the school, why don't they take the time to prepare a packed lunch for their kids - just as my Mum did?
Dan, UK

The current state of school dinners should not be legal. These children are being exposed to malnutrition, obesity and ultimately cancer... bad for them and bad for society as a whole.
Wendy, UK

My mum is a dinner lady and they have tried introducing healthy stuff but most of the kids just turn their noses up at it. It seems that all kids want is fast food like chips.
Helen, Glos, UK

Yes, though it is a fine balancing act between what children will eat and what is good for them. I didn't truly appreciate how lucky I was to have freshly-cooked meals until many years after I'd left school, so it's difficult for kids to see beyond the attractions of chips and chicken nuggets in favour of nutrition and value - they will always go for the junk food alternative unless parents get tough.
Andy Millward, United Kingdom

My daughter complained about the custard served at home on Sunday asking why it had no lumps in it like at school
Adam Kent, UK
The old adage is; "You get what you pay for". My daughter complained about the custard served at home on Sunday asking why it had no lumps in it like at school. School meals should respect the information provided by the Department of Health of a balanced and nutritional meal. Fresh potatoes, vegetables and a choice of red or white meat and varieties of fish should be offered. Parents think nothing of spending £2-£3 on a sandwich at lunchtime, I feel sure many would be more than happy to pay that little extra to ensure their children grew up in a fat free and healthy environment.
Adam Kent, UK

I used to love them, but my children hate them. They are still having chicken in the shape of the year 2000! Lunch box meals only contain chips and hotdog or nuggets -no greens. They have the same pudding 3 days running, if they ask for something different because they do not like it, they might as well say lump it or leave it.
Gone are the days when cottage pie or a roast dinner was on the menu. I pay my local authority £1.55 for a school meal which I think is robbery as they are not getting sufficient meals.
Joanne Gregory, England

School lunches 'cheap muck'
06 Oct 03  |  Education


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