Children 'bringing cold chips to school' for lunch

Chips Cold chips have become a feature of school packed lunches

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Some children are coming to school with cold chips or just a packet of biscuits in their lunchbox, experts say.

An online survey of 250 school, youth and health staff working with children in England suggests many go without enough to eat during the school day.

The Children's Food Trust's poll found 68.1% had seen a rise in the proportion of families struggling to feed their children in the past two years.

Lunchboxes now contain less fruit and more junk food, it suggests.

Of the staff working in schools, 47.5% said they had seen a change in the food in children's lunchboxes as household budgets got tighter.

One staff member said they had seen "poorer quality sandwich fillings, sometimes just margarine".

Another said there were "fewer processed items - more leftovers or store-cupboard items".

Start Quote

As local authorities develop their public health plans, ring-fencing funding to support children's nutrition would be a good starting point”

End Quote Linda Cregan The Children's Food Trust

But he added: "In some ways it is healthier, but some families only give cold cooked rice or cold chips with fish fingers or similar."

There were also references to more junk food, sweets and chocolate appearing in lunchboxes, and less fruit.

The snapshot survey also found 84.6% of the professionals who chose to take part in the survey had seen children without enough to eat during the course of their work.

'Enormous struggle'

Of those who said this, 84.8% said it applied to about a third of the children they worked with.

Children's Food Trust chief executive-designate Linda Cregan said too many people who worked with children were having to go above and beyond the call of duty to try to protect children from the effects of hunger and poor diet.

She added: "Of course it's a parent's responsibility to make sure their child eats well.

"But as this and other surveys have shown, the reality is that this can be an enormous struggle.

"Whether we like it or not, people working in these jobs are at the front line of helping parents on this, so they need the right support.

"As local authorities develop their public health plans, ring-fencing funding to support children's nutrition would be a good starting point.

"This could be used in all sorts of ways - training on cooking skills for local organisations working with families, subsidising good school food, breakfast clubs in schools or grub clubs for the holidays - but making that explicit commitment is vital."

Pupils at Priory School in Lewes told the BBC's School Report project their lunches were generally quite good.

"I haven't seen people with chips in their lunchboxes - but the school does do chips on Fridays though. I guess people just get that," said Flora, aged 14.

Ellen, aged 13, agreed that most people were quite healthy: "I take a piece of fruit to school every day."

School dinners were easier, quicker and nicer because "you can get hot food", according to Ossia, 14.

And 13-year-old Safi said: "Packed lunches are cheaper. I can buy in bulk and have the same thing every day."



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  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    It is tempting to suggest some sympathy of the fine line between:

    - those parents who are too poor to afford any better

    - those parents whose tobacco and alcohol take precedence over their child's nutrition.

    However it doesn't wash.

    Because of free school meals, the former DOESN'T EXIST.

    Therefore the parents are clearly too feckless, lazy and selfish to be entrusted with children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    We spend over 200 billion on benefits, enough to adequately feed the entire population of the country twice over. Plus the benefits are very targetted towards families with children. It must be bad parenting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.


    People on low incomes can get free school meals; the school also gets a nice big pupil bonus for anyone claiming the free meals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The comments here are almost as daft as the article. If you look at basic nutritional needs, most people can get by with one meal a day plus a couple of snacks. The question is not quantity of food, but quality.
    If the children receive a balanced diet, then it is no business of ours what they choose to eat for lunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    OK it's hardly Victorian workhouse but I have to say I'm pretty apalled at the flipant nature of many of the comments here. This apparent situation is brought about either through a lack of care by parents or more likely a lack of money. Either way, it's nothing to be laughed at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    To all the people saying these are terrible parents- how are parents meant to cope with the stress of having children without drinking, or smoking, or entertainment (e.g. big tvs!!)?!

    The kids arent complaining so nither should you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    The free school meals criteria is quite broad. If somebody genuinely can't afford to do better than cold chips in their child's lunch box then the child would be eligible for free school meals.

    This, to me at least, indicates it's not an issue of finance so much as an issue of laziness and neglect on the behalf of the parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Teacher who did the survey is secretary of New Labour Party crony club who had nothing else to do in School on £50K a year for bashing non conformist teachers. It was also evident during the previous government that is why Foodbanks were started early 2000 soon after Tony Team were elected

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    "Some children are coming to school with cold chips or just a packet of biscuits in their lunchbox, experts say"

    How many children, 2?
    Experts in what, making up stories?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Can't the schools whack the kids chips in the microwave ?

    You'd have thought that's the least they could do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I don't see how a child can effectively learn on a poor diet. Of course all this has happened before and dealt with in the 1900's so we just need the learn the lessons of the past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    It's disappointing to read about the lack of nutrition some kids suffer from,but I'm not surprised, many families are under lots of strain.Perhaps an indirect effect of lower incomes is that parents work longer hours & have less time to prepare meals.Though lack of food isn't always high on agendas, it's so important to have enough to eat and to have balanced meals - hard to function otherwise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    When I was at school, kids used to take cold sausage rolls in their lunch boxes and there was never a word about it. Why is this any different?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    A few years ago, in a class of 7 year olds, only 4 had had breakfast, and only 5 recognised an onion. I was brought up by wartime parents to cook from scratch and still do, but many just don't have the skills to do better than scraps. We need to teach real cooking and "home economics" in schools and offer better guidance to parents who were brought up in times of plenty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    You are what you eat.

    This explains why I am starting to see horses taking cold chips to school recently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I used to help on a summer camp. The first few times kids were provided a cold Mcdondalds for their packed lunch I was surprised but it happended so regularly I stopped noticing. This was over 10 years ago. This may be on the increase but it's not new.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Public education is working a treat, mixed with a welfare state that produces unintended consequences and moral hazard. Still, on the bright side, plenty of middle class, taxpayer-funded, do-gooder jobs "helping" ignorant parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I don't think this is about poverty (those in need get free school meals), but is all about ignorance.

    Same as those parents who were passing burgers and chips through the school fence when a certain chef was trying to improve school dinners. If children are given sensible food from an early age, they will eat it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    In the early 1960s, nearly everyone had school dinners. A 2 course, if not 3, fixed, no-options menu. Cost? 1/- (that's 5p to those born after 1971)

    I know we like to have choice nowadays etc but 50 years later we seem to have more problems now than then. I cannot identify we have made any progress at all on this issue in the intervening period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Remarkable how people can't afford fruit but can afford endless junk. I still remember a kid I grew up with whose parents couldn't afford to pay his youth club fees but somehow he could afford to buy up most of the tuck shop every week.

    Healthy food is easy enough, it just takes more effort than 60 seconds in the microwave. The problem is often one of laziness rather than resources.


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