School meals have become a hot topic in the UK. From concerned parents calling for a ban on sweets and fizzy drinks sold on school grounds, to Jamie Oliver crusading for fresh made lunches, what is served to your children at school has certainly been put under a spotlight. Turkey twizzlers are out, but oven roasted turkey might not be in quite yet. Schools across the UK are in transition, so read on to find out what might be served to your child this year!
School Meals in England
School meals in England have been turned upside down due to recent legislation, and all to your child’s benefit. In May, 2006 the government announced that chocolate, crisps, fizzy drinks and low quality meats will be off the menu, as will be meals high in fat and salt. Deep fried food will only be offered twice a week, and a minimum of two fruits and vegetables will be on offer at every meal. New nutritional guidelines will take effect from 2008 for primary schools, and 2009 for secondary schools.
Scottish School Meals
Scottish school meals received a makeover even earlier than their English equivalents when the Scottish Executive launched Hungry for Success in 2002. This programme has cut down on low quality meats, required serving oily fish and brown bread, and increased the number of fruits and vegetables consumed by children. A free piece of fruit for every child in their first two years of school, chilled water on demand and bigger portion sizes for older children are also offered across Scottish schools. The Scottish Executive is now in the middle of fighting to make nutrient standards statutory, and to ban schools from serving junk food or drinks.
School Meals in Wales
School meals in Wales have been undergoing a massive overhaul of late. In March, 2005 celebrity chef Jamie Oliver commended Welsh schools for showing initiative in devising healthy meals. Yet in October, 2005 Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University described them as “a sea of mediocrity.” Whatever the case, like in the rest of the UK, school meals in Wales are in a period of transition and the Welsh Assembly has publicly committed to dumping junk food at local schools and increasing the budget spent on creating healthy meals for every student.
Northern Irish School Meals
The Northern Ireland School Caterers Association has long held that schools in Northern Ireland cook from fresh ingredients, and have not relied on convenience foods as heavily as other UK schools. In 2001, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland released new compulsory nutritional standards for school meals, and in 2006 they put out a call for public consultation. Like all other UK agencies involved in the creation of school meals, Northern Ireland has committed to healthier lifestyles for its students.
Pack Your Own
If school meals still seem scary, then packing your own lunch for your child may be your best bet. Remember the British Nutrition Foundation’s easy rule for better nutrition and include:
- Foods that your child will enjoy.
- A variety of foods.
- Portion sizes that will result in a health weight for your child.
- Foods rich in starch and fibre.
- Lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Few fatty foods.
- Few sugary foods and drinks.
No matter who is making lunch, you as a parent should be confident that your child receives a nutritious meal. If you are not satisfied with your school meals, consider writing a formal complaint to help have your voice heard. In the mean time, sending your child to school with a packed lunch will ensure that he or she gets all the brain food needed!