School dinners…..the whole story?

An article by Sian To over at Mummy Tips earlier this week started quite a debate. It was about the ‘voluntary contributions’ asked for by schools. Then it led into comments about school dinners – the quality of them and the cost. From the number and vociferous nature of some of the comments, both areas are close to parents concerns.

Let’s take school dinners first. Jamie Oliver did a grand job exposing the deficiencies in the meals that were provided by schools and created much stress and angst for school cooks who had to re-learn (in some cases) the protein and calorific value of food. Together with menu design and total cost of around £1.90, I can tell you that a school kitchen was not the calmest of places to be a couple of years ago!

For some schools though, this change in menu has resulted in a huge increase in the waste produced as many children will not eat what is presented. This not necessarily because of the quality but because they have not tasted it before. Salads, vegetables and ‘green’ things have not been part of their repertoire at meal times. Try as they might, lunch time supervisors just cannot tempt some children to even try and neither should they in my opinion. It is not for schools to transform society’s eating habits, only to encourage a healthy life style that is grounded at home.

For parents who are concerned about the quality of food available at lunch time I would urge you to go and constructively discuss the menus with the schools. It would be really useful for schools to know what parents and children would like and be given the opportunity to explain the strict guidelines they are now working within.

As for ‘voluntary contributions’ schools are not permitted to charge for trips and activities. There is a wealth of places to take children as well as a variety of visitors who are making careers out of school visits. Recent governments have all stressed the need for the curriculum to be enriched and to give children experiences beyond the classroom. Sadly they all cost money and that is something that most schools do not have in abundance.

Is it perhaps a reflection on society that it is down to schools to provide that enrichment? Do parents take children out and about as they did before or is it a case of there is too much choice? Whatever it is, it is causing schools a headache to find both time and money for many of these trips hence the ‘voluntary contributions’.

Schools do have a duty to let parents know what the money is for and to give plenty of notice for it to be collected. That goes for any request from school – let parents know in good time as many of them do want to engage but have busy lives to organize. Whether it is trips or school dinners, communication  is key to developing a good relationship with parents.

What is your beef about school dinners? How good is the communication between school and parents?

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  • I think our expectation of school is too high. How is a school supposed to make a child eat veg if the parents can’t? My son is a fussy eater. I just lied and told him everything was chicken and broccolli because he liked that and he’d eat then. I had a bit of explaining to do when he got to 5 but he ate his veg, which was more important than accurately identifying what they were.

      

    • Anonymous

      It’s good to hear some support for the list of things schools are supposed to do! Love your strategy for getting veg eaten! Great to see you here!

        

  • Kat

    Our solution is that we have the school dinner menu posted on the fridge. I read what is being offered that day (and the veg that will be offered with the main) and if she wants it I will give her her lunch money and if she doesn’t want it I send a packed lunch (once I sent her with a bagel, a couple slices of ham and a banana because that was all that was left in the house). I think it is too much to expect a school to cater to every child’s likes and dislikes. Personally, I wish I could eat the school dinners that are provided at my daughters school! Roasts every Thursday!! Yum!

      

    • Anonymous

      You certainly have it organsied Kat! Roast day was always the favouritewhen I was a Head. We introduced a second roast day to try to boost school meals. Thank you for dropping by & commenting. Really appreciate it!

        

  • it seems that people have a very high expectation of schools. It is ridiculous to think that a school should be responsible for making a child eat well. Sure they should offer healthy choices but they aren’t the food police. I think Kat’s answer sounds very sensible.
    Funnily enough I have exactly the same tactic as modern military mother for getting my daughter to eat anything. Tell her is’s all chicken and brocolli.

      

    • Anonymous

      I wish I’d known about these strategies to get children to eat vegetables! My son (34) still will only eat one sprout for Christmas lunch!!Many thanks for popping in!

        

  • Thanks for picking up on my post. It seems that this is a subject close to a lot of parents hearts.

      

  • Thanks for picking up on my post. It seems that this is a subject close to a lot of parents hearts.

      

  • Anonymous

    I wish I’d known about these strategies to get children to eat vegetables! My son (34) still will only eat one sprout for Christmas lunch!!Many thanks for popping in!

      

  • I think I’m probably lucky in that my daughter’s school does excellent school dinners, with a focus on as much local, seasonal produce as possible. Even though I do a lot of cooking, and have tried to instill variety, I did find I was getting in a bit of a rut at home. It has therefore been interesting to see how, since having school dinners my eldest does seem to be slowly starting to try more things. It is not happening overnight, but I do think a bit of peer pressure is working.

      

    • Anonymous

      I hadn’t thought of peer pressure but it must exist both positvely & negatively I suppose. Many thanks for your time in commenting! Really much appreciated!

        

  • I think I’m probably lucky in that my daughter’s school does excellent school dinners, with a focus on as much local, seasonal produce as possible. Even though I do a lot of cooking, and have tried to instill variety, I did find I was getting in a bit of a rut at home. It has therefore been interesting to see how, since having school dinners my eldest does seem to be slowly starting to try more things. It is not happening overnight, but I do think a bit of peer pressure is working.

      

    • Anonymous

      I hadn’t thought of peer pressure but it must exist both positvely & negatively I suppose. Many thanks for your time in commenting! Really much appreciated!

        

  • My two have school dinners. I do that because I want them to have a hot meal in the middle of the day.

    We have a school menu at home and we discuss beforehand what I would prefer them to have. We adopted this strategy because Monkey was having the pasta option every day! My main problem tho is that the menu seems to bear no resemblance to what is offered on the day. I have a feeling they are on the wrong week at the moment.

    My kids are good eaters anyway so I don’t expect the school to be doing that bit but they do need encouragement to try new things – that’s how Monkey ended up on pasta as it was something he recognised!

    Don’t have problem with voluntary contributions at our school. They are very good and voluntary means just that and they don’t pressurise people. The PTFA gave a lot of money that meant school trips got heavily subsidised last year so they all took place. That was brilliant.

      

    • Anonymous

      An active PTA can make such a difference. Many thanks for your contributions. It is great that you visit so regularly! Thank you!

        

  • My two have school dinners. I do that because I want them to have a hot meal in the middle of the day.

    We have a school menu at home and we discuss beforehand what I would prefer them to have. We adopted this strategy because Monkey was having the pasta option every day! My main problem tho is that the menu seems to bear no resemblance to what is offered on the day. I have a feeling they are on the wrong week at the moment.

    My kids are good eaters anyway so I don’t expect the school to be doing that bit but they do need encouragement to try new things – that’s how Monkey ended up on pasta as it was something he recognised!

    Don’t have problem with voluntary contributions at our school. They are very good and voluntary means just that and they don’t pressurise people. The PTFA gave a lot of money that meant school trips got heavily subsidised last year so they all took place. That was brilliant.

      

    • Anonymous

      An active PTA can make such a difference. Many thanks for your contributions. It is great that you visit so regularly! Thank you!

        

  • Meals in my old place were great, fresh and really nutritious – all for £1.85 per day. New place, meals come in via hot boxes sometimes as early as 9.15am and quality is appalling – for £2.09 per day. Despite this out of 365 kids we already have 130 kids a day having it. Contract ends next April – moving supplier!

      

  • Meals in my old place were great, fresh and really nutritious – all for £1.85 per day. New place, meals come in via hot boxes sometimes as early as 9.15am and quality is appalling – for £2.09 per day. Despite this out of 365 kids we already have 130 kids a day having it. Contract ends next April – moving supplier!

      

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