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Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK


'No worries' over children's diet

Many parents want schools to serve breakfast and an evening meal

As school caterers mount a National School Meals Week, a survey has shown that more than a third of parents are not concerned about their children's diet.

James Helm: "Many parents want schools to provide meals around the clock"
The Gallup survey, commissioned by the Local Authority Caterers Association, reveals that 37% of them are not at all worried about what their children currently eat.

It also suggests that 22% depend totally on schools to provide their children with a balanced diet. And 27% per cent of parents say they also rely totally on schools to teach their children discipline and social skills.

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Thirty-nine per cent of children say they are more likely to use a knife and fork at school than at home.

Nearly two thirds of parents say their children eat an evening meal at home at the table - but nearly a quarter let their children eat the meal off a tray on their laps.

Chips may still be the preferred lunchtime choice of many children, but this week more than 20,000 schools will try to persuade them to eat healthier meals.

Many parents want schools to provide meals around the clock - almost 40% would like to see breakfast offered, and 21% are in favour of an evening meal.

Sweets popular

Efforts to liven up school menus and make nutritional food more fun seem to have had an effect, as a large majority of the children aged eight to 16 admitted they knew that healthy eating was sensible.

But, unsurprisingly perhaps, many of them - 40% - also called eating healthy food boring. The most popular items bought with what is supposed to be lunch money are sweets, chocolate or crisps.

One in five children who eat school meals put chips at the top of their lists of lunchtime favourites, followed by pizza and hot dogs.

Schools were given greater freedom to choose their caterers last year.

Education Secretary David Blunkett has said he wants to ensure that they use this extra flexibility responsibly, making healthy lunch menus, rather than cost-cutting, their top priority.

  • For the catering survey, Gallup conducted telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 parents and with 1,200 children aged eight to 16 in Scotland, England and Wales between February and March.

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