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So what do you all think of the free school dinners from next year?
Whilst I welcome it from a financial point of view it simply isn’t sitting right with me. Is it just another way of the government taking control of our children? Are school dinners really that healthy? Our school has won awards for being a healthy school, yet when I look at the food it’s not what I would call healthy and its certainly not the sort of things we eat at home. Whilst I don’t mind them occasionally having a meal I wouldn’t want them to eat that food regularly, and as vegetarians I don’t feel that their option is a balanced diet (too dairy heavy).
I realise some children benefit hugely from school dinners as often its the only hot meal they get, but a lot of children qualify for a free meal anyway. How are they funding this? They cut child benefit but surely this will cost a great deal, is it just another way of taking control from us? And what about home educators? Already there is no allowance for home educating…

Interested in all views

AJ x

I home-ed but often talk to my friends about school including the dinners. They tell me the dinners are ok but not exactly what they would call super-healthy. I’ve seen some of the menus and like you if it was my child I wouldn’t mind them having it occasionally but certainly not every day! Who makes the menus? Is this person trained in nutrition? Although to be honest most of the ‘nutrition advice’ I hear/read about children I disagree with atnyway! One thing being as you say too dairy heavy - particularly for veggies. There seems to be cake time things for dessert every day, there are vegetables but as more of an after thought - not a central part of the meal like at home.

It is true that these meals are probably better than what some children have at home and of course free-school meals help low-income families a lot. But I’ve long thought again that it’s such a shame that these vulnerable children are relying on these meals for some nutrition and they get let down.

And yes it is another patronising way for the government/schools to take control! They know better how to feed children than the parents now too! :(

As for the home-ed children being discriminated against well, sadly I wouldn’t expect any different.

It would seem to me to make more sense to spend the money on making the meals much healthier so those low-income children really benefit from them. If they were good then other families would be happy to pay for them. Investment should also be put into the kind of cooking sessions run at my children’s centre. They involve parents and children in a fun, relaxed way in learning healthy cooking skills. Not much hope for this as they’re planning on closing our children’s centre next year - the 2nd busiest in the area :(

Charlotte x

Home-Edding, BFing, Co-sleeping, Carrying & Cloth-nappying Gentle Mama to Lovely Leo (Apr 07) and Beautiful Ella (Mar 12)

I think it’s just another way for the government to control our children. My children have packed lunches as i like to know what they are eating in the day, and one of mine is a very fussy eater. I also don’t think the school dinners are that healthy. Although i can see that children from less well off families will benefit from this. Will be interested to see what everyone else thinks. x

Mama to Ds 1 age 16, Ds 2 age 11, Dd 1 age 9, Ds 3 age 6, Dd 2 + 3 age 3

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It seems to depend on the area you live in.  Every half term I get a menu of things to choose from for DD’s school lunches, including a selection of vegetarian meals, and healthy foods like wholemeal pasta and vegetables, fish fingers and veggies, obviously some chips, but only once a week.  The school itself also has a salad bar, and a choice of desserts, fresh fruits and yogurts.  The previous headteacher also advised that only healthy snacks are allowed, so they get fruit at morning break too, plus I send additional fruit for afternoon break.  DD loves school dinners, and she’s a really fussy eater.  The school also invites the parents for lunch once a term which is great, and we get to see it all in action.

I hope the government scheme will allow these healthy meals to continue.  If not, I will continue to pay my local council, as I am more than happy with the food DD receives.  It’s better than I get at work!!

Mamma to Hannah, age 8 and Jonas, 2

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I think it’s a shame that our schooling system seems to be continually being shaped by the government to fix social problems (because our social services system is insufficient and underfunded) rather than to provide education for children. Everything that involves children being in school younger, having wraparound before and after school care and now free meals being included - it’s all aimed at children who are at risk of neglect or other abuse, it’s all intended to pick up the children who might otherwise fall through the net. This makes me angry, because it is NOT in the best interests of the vast majority of children and is helping to create a non-family based society where parents are forced to hand over responsibility for every aspect of their children’s lives.

Incidentally, school meals were always very good at my daughter’s primary school and I’m sure they’ll include healthy initiatives or it really won’t work, but that just isn’t the point for me. And yes, having a child with allergies and intolerances who is always the odd one out at parties etc, that does worry me and makes it less likely that we’ll use the school system in future if it’s going to make things even more awkward.

I read the report into this new initiative. The Government advisors who wrote the report are a fast food chain. The primary motivation for the free school meals is to (ultimately) make school canteens more profitable, because nationally, they currently run at a loss. The report is quite explicit about this. The way they are planning on this working is:

Offer free school meals to every child
Ban or highly discourage packed lunches.
After a year, when most/all children are eating school meals and are used to it, withdraw the free element so that parents who would normally have to pay have to start paying.

They are very clear that it is about getting people into the habit of eating school meals, so that they carry on after the free period. They even suggest continuing with free meals for the first term of reception and year 7s, to make sure people get sucked in. It is very blatant, and, I’m afraid, very profit orientated (surprise, surprise).

Angie

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Angie, I’m very interested in this report! Where would I find it?

AJ x

I’ll be interested to see if this applies to all school dinners. My eldest has just started at a free school academy, and the meals on offer there are absolutely superb - locally sourced, seasonal, vegetarian and prize-winning. If they were free as well, it would be a clear win over lunchboxes.

Earthenwitch

Mama to DD (1 June 2008) and DD2 (10 August 2011)
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AllyJ - I’m tied up with kids right now, but I’ll dig out the link and post it here a bit later…

angie

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http://washedupfamily.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.etsy.com/shop/NannieCool , http://nanniecool.yolasite.com Nannie Cool - for beautiful slings, playsilks, toys, nappy wraps and accessories made by Grace’s Nannie. All designs are “Approved by Grace”

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I actually think this is a good incentive.
Speaking with teachers it is sad to hear how many kids go to school with no lunch, or a bag of crisps. So for these kids I think it is a very welcome incentive.
It actually annoys me hearing all my middle class friends moaning about their kids being ‘fussy’....at least they have been given something.
I think we should all look at the bigger picture, sadly there is a huge amount of kids who go to school having had no breakfast and then a minimal amount of lunch…

Although I do think that it shouldn’t be free for people who can afford it.

Just my opinion though smile

http://www.schoolfoodplan.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/School_Food_Plan_2013.pdf

It’s a very long document, but it’s all in there….

Angie

http://www.etsy.com/shop/WashedUpFamily Sea Glass Jewellery from the beautiful South Coast[/color]

http://washedupfamily.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.etsy.com/shop/NannieCool , http://nanniecool.yolasite.com Nannie Cool - for beautiful slings, playsilks, toys, nappy wraps and accessories made by Grace’s Nannie. All designs are “Approved by Grace”

http://bournemouthattachmentparents.blogspot.com/

Can I just point out that there will be a general election between now and then.  Not to be cynical, but I highly doubt whether this will ever be implemented!

Mother to Harry (6) and Oliver (4) and Hannah who arrived at 5.57pm on Friday 10th May 2013

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Just had a look at the report. Amused to read about ‘the Herculean difficulty of making a nutritionally-balanced packed lunch’!

Home-Edding, BFing, Co-sleeping, Carrying & Cloth-nappying Gentle Mama to Lovely Leo (Apr 07) and Beautiful Ella (Mar 12)

Yes, I chuckled at that too. Can’t say I have all that much difficulty - or spend anywhere close to what they must have done on that exotic list of ingredients!

Angie

http://www.etsy.com/shop/WashedUpFamily Sea Glass Jewellery from the beautiful South Coast[/color]

http://washedupfamily.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.etsy.com/shop/NannieCool , http://nanniecool.yolasite.com Nannie Cool - for beautiful slings, playsilks, toys, nappy wraps and accessories made by Grace’s Nannie. All designs are “Approved by Grace”

http://bournemouthattachmentparents.blogspot.com/

Anriel - in some schools it already ha been; a few banned packed lunches from the beginning of this term :(

I feel really sad about it actually, because I think it may well spell the end of family evening meals, for those who currently do. If the children are getting a main meal at lunchtime, they are not going to want another in the evening :(

Meggie, for me the issue is not free school meals for those that want it, but that it comes hand-in-glove with a recommendation to ban packed lunches. I have looked at all the menus of all the schools local to me - none of them provide as healthy an option as what I would pack as a packed lunch. At 4.5, my daughter is still totally sugar/artificial sweetener free and almost completely salt free - not because she is fussy - because I am, and I want to keep those things very minimal in her diet. None of the menus I have seen come close to providing a diet like that (thankfully we are home edding). I feel it’s very wrong to take away responsible parental choice in this way.

Angie

http://www.etsy.com/shop/WashedUpFamily Sea Glass Jewellery from the beautiful South Coast[/color]

http://washedupfamily.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.etsy.com/shop/NannieCool , http://nanniecool.yolasite.com Nannie Cool - for beautiful slings, playsilks, toys, nappy wraps and accessories made by Grace’s Nannie. All designs are “Approved by Grace”

http://bournemouthattachmentparents.blogspot.com/

It’s difficult isn’t it…I see all your arguments as very valid and yes when my eldest was in UK state school I sent her with pack lunches 3 days a week because I wanted her to have something healthier. However there are lots of families who are poor but not poor enough to qualify for free school meals and maybe have lots of children, and I’ve worked in state schools and seen kids come to school with a litre of sunny delight, a plastic sandwich (if they were lucky) a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar - whatever the state is providing is going to be better than that, however much it might not live up to our standards. But as Angie says, banning the option of pack lunches is ridiculous and frankly unworkable - just declare your kid to have multiple allergies and be vegan, I doubt they’d stop you!

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