From September 2014, all pupils in Reception class, Year 1 and Year 2 in state schools in England, will be eligible for free schools meals.
This strikes a chord with me, as me and my sister (Pam) who also became eligible for school meals, not because the Government was taking a bold step to improve what children ate at school or to reduce childhood obesity like today, but because our Dad passed away suddenly reason: ‘myocardial infarction’.
I’m hoping today’s children have a very different experience than I did. My memories of school dinners are not good and include:
- Soggy, foul smelling cabbage
- Pasty semolina, made more palatable with a blob of jam
- Frog spawn tapioca
- Tinned tomatoes swimming in their own blood like juice
- Lumpy s’mash scooped out with an ice cream scoop
- Horrible cheese pie – Pam’s particular favourite!
How things change, now cabbage is one of my favourite veg, fresh tomatoes and smooth buttery mash are a treat, but I still can’t face a cheese pie!
From September things in England’s schools should be very different. Headteachers are going to be responsible for driving forward a massive culture change. They are tasked with making dining halls more welcoming, with little queuing, and serving food that is both appetising and nutritious. The School Food Plan
has been designed to help head teachers achieve this vision.
The change is coming about because the country faces a serious health crisis caused by bad diet with almost 20% of children leaving school obese. Only 1% of packed lunches were found to meet nutritional standards and schools were losing money from having half empty dining halls.
The food to be offered at lunch time must now meet nutrient-based standards including:
- limiting the amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt and non-intrinsic sugar (added sugar).
- minimum levels of nine nutrients; carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron, and zinc.
I really do hope its a great success to help children to achieve their full academic potential, avoid obesity, and reduce the risk of heart disease that I know can devastate a family. My good luck goes to heads, teachers and the army of dinner ladies (and men) who are the ones that can really make this work.