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 79.

    SOUP is the answer to this - made daily in ALL schools and given FREE to pupils - it is VERY cheap to make, and with a bit of bread can be a great stomach filler - I'd make this compulsory in all schools and work it into the budget at ZERO profit

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Some people should not be allowed to have children. There is no excuse for this. Children come first, second and third over other matters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Of course there is always the school dinner, with or without horse meat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I really feel for these children. If cold chips or biscuits are all they are given as packed lunch, I dread to think what goes on behind closed doors of their homes.

    As with violence breeding violence, neglect breeds neglect and is passed on from one generation to the next.

    Irresponsible parenting is to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Bit of a sweeping judgment based on a survey of only 250 school, youth and health staff working with children in England

    I don't doubt that there may be changesin lunch boxes due to tightening budgets but this is realy sloppy polling and reporting.

    Shame on the BBC for sensationalising a story based on such a small sample

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Cold chips are unhealthy, but cold rice is just as cheap but far healthier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Chips and biscuits are better than nothing at all (also these are usually cheaper than healthier foods)

    This might be about poor education but I possibly it might have more to do with families missing meals, cupboards being bare and the astronomical rise in people needing food banks because they havent any.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I used to creep downstairs into my Granddads chip shop in the morning to eat any yesterdays cold chips left over ! If Grandma caught me I'd get a clip around the ear. So Granddad would stand in the doorway so she couldn't see me and nod for me to grab some. It did me no harm in those hungry days of 1940, I still love left-over cold chips. So please stop all this PC do-gooders rubbish, eat them !

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    As per usual... pick on one facet and pronounce judgement!
    There is no SINGLE reason for this, its going to be a combination - Lack of finances, lack of parental time, lack of parental skills, kids who are finicky, and the usual "tabloid" headline of cold chips, What we actually need to see is a breakdown of the survey results not just the sound byte

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    We're all in this together. It's just that some of us are far more in it than others...

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    When we have news stories about the Government telling us what to eat, how much to drink, not to smoke, not to have fizzy drinks etc then people are up in arms and accuse the government of "nannying" them and interfering in their lives.

    And just how is this different ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    It's not about poverty. Not one bit.

    At the beginning of the week, I buy all the stuff I need to have sandwiches: ham & tomato or chicken & mayo etc. and a piece of fruit each day for less than £5.

    If you can't spare a fiver to give your child decent lunches for a whole week, then you shouldn't have children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    To number 9,

    When I were't lad, I did 24hrs down't pit, go 'ome t'ole in't ground, 'ave cuppa, then down't pit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Tried to mix it up for my girl, but I'm running out of ideas, especially with the lunchbox police at school. No choc. Fair enough, but not really sure how a KitKat did anyone any harm. No crisps. OK, fair enough. No nuts. Apparently other kids have allergies. No grapes. Apparently kids choke. It goes on... So she gets a ham sarnie, a babybell, raisins and a yogurt. And that's her lunch. Poor thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    This is child abuse! Crisps, fizzy drinks & choc bars are 50p each at least - fruit is often cheaper and can be grown in a small garden! I was very poor at one time with kids to feed - they had cheese sandwiches, fruit, squash & a home-made cookie - healthy basic food. What about fruit, veg and brown bread food vouchers for those that won't feed their kids? Can't buy fags & phone contracts then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    "A lunch box with cheese sandwich, salad and a piece of fruit would cost less than a bag of chips."

    Like it or not, this simply isn't true. 1.5kg of Tesco value chips cost £1 and you can get a lot of portions of chips out of that. Yes healthy food is not that expensive, especially if you have access to corner shops or markets, but junk food is scarily cheap (because it's junk).

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Junk food = lazy. If parents find it a struggle to provide a healthy balanced diet it's down to their own laziness. There are countless sources of information on the subject and no excuse for their apparent ignorance. Maybe they just don't love their kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    This is pretty shocking. Neither I nor Mrs Bough would ever allow our kids to have such a poor diet.

    However, as for myself, I would happily eat cold chips. Have you ever tried them? They are delicious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    39.David Horton
    Many families go in and out of entitlement to free school meals. Added to which, many families are just over the threshold (could be as little as £1) so lose out.
    That could be resolved by making all primary school children (at least) entitled to FSM. Would probably cost less in terms of admin savings and would remove the stigma that means many do not claim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I mainly ate school dinners and I lost nearly 2 stone in weight in the year after I left school (went from 11 stone to 9 stone). All that was available at school was junk - couldn't even just get a healthy sandwich. That was over 7 years ago but I don't get the impression that things have improved much.


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