I’ve just been having a chat with a work acquaintance at a training event and he told me something that made me angry and I wanted to share my views on.
Apparently, there’s a move in England to ban packed lunches/going home for lunch, and force every child to have a school lunch, in an effort to reduce childhood obesity and improve overall public health.
While I do think that these are worthy aims… I am completely appalled by this recommendation by a government-commissioned school food review.
I find it completely patronising to suggest that nobody out there is capable of feeding their own children. Apparently some ‘celebrity chef’ (not sure which one as it’s not in the article I read – so apologies if this isn’t accurate!) was quoted as saying even he couldn’t give his child a more nutritious lunch than a school meal – sorry, but what a load of bollocks (although given that most ‘celebrity chef’ recipes are way too high on salt, fat, butter etc… maybe they aren’t the best resource for people looking to eat healthily!).
Yes, there ARE children who aren’t getting the right diet, and we need to do lots more food education work to teach parents how to afford and make healthy food. I’d also support schools who ban crisps, fizzy drinks and other unhealthy foods at lunchtime. It does makes me so sad and angry that children are growing up fed on crisps and chocolate and chips and ready meals and that it’s setting them up for a lifetime of health problems.
But I don’t think the answer is to take away every parent’s right to feed their children. What’s next – all adults being force-fed in work canteens morning and night because we can’t be trusted to make the right choices and have never learned to do it ourselves anyway?
When I was in secondary school (and possibly younger) I made my own packed lunches, which were really my first solo forays into the kitchen. In fact it set me up for learning how to make packed lunches as an adult. To my mind, banning packed lunches at school sends the message that food prepared at home isn’t as good as that prepared commercially and that your own health is outside your control. People in general eat way too little home cooking as it is and I don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage people to abdicate responsibility for their own families’ health and leave it to the schools to sort out.
In fact I’d argue that one of the roots of the obesity crisis (and other public health problems) is that society in general has lost the confidence, skills and knowledge to cook fresh, healthy food, so many people end up relying on processed alternatives, partly for convenience but often because they think they’re better than what they can make. In a world where too many people think making a lasagne from scratch is using a jar of red and a jar of white sauce, do we really want to encourage people to become even less responsible for their own nutrition?
In my mind, the key to improving public health is giving the tools and confidence to families so they can feed their children healthily, not actually banning them from even trying.
What do you think? Do you think banning packed lunches would help improve public health? Or do you agree that it’s a step too far?
I just wanted to say I’m certainly not having a go at anyone who makes use of school meals – but I think that it should be your choice, not dictated by the state. I also do agree with making sure that school meals are as healthy as possible for those who choose to use them.
BBC article about the recommendations here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23270715