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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Souped-up school meals?

This is National School Meals Week, and to mark the occasion a school caterers' association has made some predictions about the future of the school dinner.

According to the caterers, by 2020 there will be no more vats of chips and beans in St Trinian's-style dining halls - instead pupils will be using mobile phones and the internet to order hi-tech, high fibre food from up-market school restaurants.

So will this souped-up vision of school meals come true? Does it mean that burgers and tomato sauce have had their chips? Will children ever prefer healthy eating to junk food? And what are your memories of school canteens? HAVE YOUR SAY

1964 - The new wing to our school had just opened and along with several new laboratories we got a new refectory and dining space. Did the quality of the food improve? No. When a meeting with the kitchen staff was called to discuss means of reducing waste food, the head cook took it as an insult and the rest of the staff marched out in sympathy. Enter the 6th form, both those doing Home Economics and volunteers during their prep time. We had a couple of days of menus within budget with wastage down to banana skins and orange peel. All the tutor did was made sure we used the equipment safely and cleaned up afterwards. As for exercise, the cut-backs had not come into force yet.
Hazel, UK

I'm a Spanish University student, and I think that predictions about future are not true. Predicting whether school meals will be healthy in 2020 is impossible. Who can really say what will happen?
Jesús Fernández, Spain

I think meals are very important, especially in places where there are big groups, I mean, factories, schools, etc. That's why we should be very careful with these kinds of menus. We can't play with so many people's health.
Manuel, Spain

I remember school dinners of "meat" (undefined) and two veg (unidentifiable), but it's what people wanted to eat.

I remember school dinners of "meat" (undefined) and two veg (unidentifiable), but it's what people wanted to eat. We had such appetising treats as black pudding lightly sautéed in lard and nicely blackened potatoes. Fast food is just as bad (a modernised, US-inspired equivalent), but it seems that at last kids are starting to eat some healthy foods. When I was at school, only 10 years ago, salads were still laughed at ("rabbit food") and anything not stodgy and deep-fried (e.g. curry, stir-fry) was thought of as far too exotic. These once unusual foods are now firm favourites, and I have little doubt that sushi will eventually follow suit, probably because it is not only good for you, but it tastes nice too. School dinners still resemble what people generally ate in Britain in the 40s and 50s, but it won't be long until they move into the 21st Century.

I hate school meals I think we should be allowed just to eat chocolate cake because that is all I ever eat at home but when I am at school I have to have bread and butter!
Oliver Robertshaw, UK

What it comes down to, is that there is an overabundance of foodstuffs available that did not used to be available.

Sara, USA
I had horrid school lunches just like every other kid in the American public school system. And like another reader, this was during the Reagan ketchup-is-a-vegetable years. What it comes down to, is that there is an overabundance of foodstuffs available that did not used to be available. Unhealthy fast food like chips is cheaper than preparing salads for school kids, and maybe our parents never got to eat endless chips and burgers as kids, and this is their way of living vicariously through their kids, now that such foods are easily had regardless of how much money one makes. It comes down to parenting and learning healthy habits at home, and while it always looks like school gets the shaft and is left to clean up parenting messes, why the heck do we send children to go to school in the first place? We send them to learn the ways of the world and the people in it, and if learning that some foods are extremely unhealthy and vegetables are important whether you like them or not, we're doing these children a very large favour.
Sara, USA

I hate our school meals and I think they should be banned or replaced with edible food products quickly!
Jim Kirk, UK

I think that this is one more wild prediction about the future that will not come true. Children will not want to eat any healthier in 2020 than in 2000. My memories of school lunches are of awful, overcooked meals and ketchup, which was considered a vegetable by the Reagan administration.
Jeff, USA

Nutrition, begins in the mind and not in the stomach

Martin Sullivan, Canada
Nutrition, begins in the mind and not in the stomach. Servings of a choice of 2 or, 3 simple balanced meals will always be preferable to the "chips with everything" society we seem to have developed into. Schools should not be expected to pick up all the shortcomings of parenting skills. Schools are meant to be establishments of education and learning not, social welfare agencies. However, the "school milk" precedent should be applied. School meals should be available to all children attending school, regardless of the parents' financial situation. The future of our society lies in their hands.
Martin Sullivan, Vancouver, Canada

Without a shadow of a doubt, there should be much greater concern today over what is going into children's heads than what is going into their stomachs.
David Baynes, Canada

Whether children prefer eating healthier foods in the future entirely depends on whether the parents can learn to break their habits of eating too much burgers and chips. Surprisingly, many people still find it hard to accept a well-balanced diet, although everybody is well aware of what too much sugar and fat can cause you.
Claire, UK

It should be worth noting - that if by 2020 pupils order hi-tech, high fibre food from up-market school restaurants - they will probably doing it from high tech hospitals - as the microwave doses they will have received from there high tech phones will have put them there.
Brown, UK

Exercise and a mixed, healthy diet. Get rid of weekday children's television and give them some physical exercise after school (giving parents time to get home and meet them after school which attacks delinquency problems as well) and hopefully create some social skills as well by interacting in a social and physical activity. Maybe even community work like litter clearing to help them realise that a world exists outside their homes and that they share it. Food for the mind as well as the body perhaps. Please keep the suet pudding though.
Martin Bentley, UK

Be honest and say how many children in UK could be tempted by sushi?

Sally Millington, Japan

In Japan it is normal to provide your children with snacks at 10.30am and bento or lunch box for 12.30pm. The school day goes on until 3.30 as per UK. Snacks for my 5year old and 7year old is a rice cracker, soya beans in their shell or a piece of flapjack or banana bread (home made) or banana then lunch is an onigiri which is a triangle of rice wrapped in seaweed (nori) with tuna or salmon inside. Salad made of chopped cucumber, olives cooked pasta twirls and tomatoes and a yogurt. A rice cracker (osembe) or muesli bar and sliced apple or mango to finish. Now tell me about this chip, burger and baked bean habit in UK. The title of this piece mentioned sushi. Be honest and say how many children in UK could be tempted by sushi?
Sally Millington, Japan

I'm really sick of the total lack of structure being presented to kids these days, all in the name of "they've got the right to decide for themselves". True, the school dinner should consist of more than sausages, burgers and chips but lets be realistic. Most of the problems we have in our so-called society stem from giving kids too much freedom, and teaching them all about rights and not at all about responsibility. They should accept that in some issues they don't get to have exactly what they want.
John, UK

It simply should not be acceptable to not offer fresh fruits/vegetables every day (please, not boiled to death) yet offer endless stacks of chips and buttered rolls. Not that US schools have improved much, either (we have the juvenile obesity statistics to prove this sad point). We do a disservice to our children to offer any less.
Jennifer Way, US

It's a difficult job finding a balance between what children like to eat and what they should eat. Providing they are not over-doing the fat and carbohydrates, and that parents regulate what they eat in the evenings/weekends, why not let them enjoy their school dinners? Most schools now offer a range to suit most tastes and the food is far healthier and appealing than in my day - it's generally hot, for a start! There is the old maxim that many of us non-dieters stick by - 'a little of what you fancy does you good'. If schools are concerned about the unhealthy state of the nation's children, perhaps they should be looking at it from the aspect of a wholly healthier lifestyle, not just diet. Try banning cars for 250 yards from the school gates so the children get some exercise. Encourage after-school activities - perhaps PE should have its own homework rules!
Jenni, UK

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03 Apr 00 | Education
Sushi with everything
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