Posh restauranteurs advise the Government to ban lunchboxes to make school dinners cost effective
It’s not enough that the Government wants to fiddle in every aspect of your life, now they are taking the nanny state a bit far by suggesting parents are incapable of feeding their own children properly, with a new report “urging” headteachers to ban lunchboxes in schools.
This mindnumbingly idiotic exciting new report was commissioned by the Government from two restaurateurs, Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent whose report, the School Food Plan, found that just 43% of pupils currently have school dinners. Clearly this is not because school dinners are crap, tiny or expensive (or all three) but is because parents must want to feed their children poorly. According to the report just 1% of lunchboxes meet the nutritional standards that apply to school dinners.
But the worrying thrust of the report is that lunchboxes should be banned, or if not banned, should become such a figure of fun and derision that children wouldn’t dare bring a lunchbox in “the best schools, the schools with good food, find ways of making packed lunches the least exciting option," said Mr Dimbleby, who went to a private boarding school.
“If packed lunches were banned, schools would be able to provide better meals at a cheaper price, and this would help boost children's performance” he added.
And this seems to be the thrust behind the report- because school meals only become financially viable at just over 50% take up, it seems the authors have been looking for reasons why children should be forced into eating school dinners in order to make the Department of Education's books balance, including advocating banning lunchboxes altogether – when asked for advice by free schools on how to implement an effective school meals system, the report authors are proud to boast that they “ always advised them to ban packed lunches from the start”.
Of course, none of this high faluting talk actually deals with real people and their children. The report itself states that “the strongest single factor behind low take-up is price”, and with the average school meal costing around £2 per child per day (£390 a year, for each child) compared with a 46p packed lunch (figures from the School Food Plan report) it is unsurprising that many parents choose, or are forced, to send their children with packed lunches instead.
The Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman said: "While encouraging all students to eat a nutritious hot lunch is the right aim, it is not always feasible. Many hardworking families on relatively low incomes give their children packed lunches because they don't qualify for free school meals and the cost of a school dinner would be prohibitive."
The report did recommend that “free school meals should be extended to all primary school children, starting with the most deprived areas” in order to help get people hooked- after all once pupils start having school dinners they often continue, even if they have to pay (according to the report), the Government have so far not agreed to implement this recommendation.
For a report that goes on to talk about the number of (particularly teenage) children going without any kind of lunch, and the growing need for breakfast clubs for parents who cannot afford to give their children breakfast, is forcing an additional cost on parents really the best idea?
While some lunchboxes may indeed still be an eighties haven of Monster Munch and Blue Ribands, school policies and education can improve the quality of lunchboxes, and in many cases, already have. And what about children with special diets, or particular anxieties around foods- are these jolly restauranteurs expecting small primary schools to be able to cope with providing cross-contamination free, nutritionally balanced meals for all these children too?
Of course, the fact that Henry Dimbleby (son of David) went on holiday to Morocco, staying with a certain Education Secretary and his wife last year has probably had no bearing on the impartiality of this report. At all.