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 99.

    "Children 'bringing cold chips to school' for lunch"

    If the system provided decent free school meals for our kids, teachers wouldn't need to spy in our childrens packed lunches

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Grub club is an excellent idea, but should also be run with a snare and coursing club. Think of the savings to councils no longer having to deal with stray animals. Children interacting with the environment, sounds idyllic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @ 68 PerryLuss

    I could not have put it better myself.
    Every week the money comes in, the first thing I do is arrange food for the week, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
    Shopping on a daily basis on a budget does not work.
    People need to work out food lists for the week rather than going to shop and deciding then, that causes too much waste..
    Cold chips for lunch - YUK!

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I should imagine the chips served in the school aren't particularly served much warmer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    @9.I predict a riot
    "Luxury, when I was a lad we only got to school after 18 hrs down't pit with a couple a grains of wheat for't day."

    Tha's nothin'.. I us'd t'werk 25hrs a day int' cess pool, an 'av a lick ov't wall fer me tea.
    Tell tha'd t'kids nowdays tho an' t'won't beleive thee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    This is just a scare story to get taxpayers prepared to start funding three square meals a day at school for every schoolchild in Britain. Then the family Child Benefit can be spent on what it is meant to be spent on, mobile phones, lottery tickets etc. etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    How much of a screw up do you have to be if you're sending a little child to school with not enough to eat? I'm no fan of subsidising the breeders' kids, but if it's come to starving children, then feed all the kids breakfast and lunch at school and the taxpayer picks up the bill. Hungry kids happen in third world countries not here and any government that allows that needs to buck up its ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I fail to see what this has to do with the state. Parents have the right and duty to take care of their children as they see fit. It matters nothing to me that their offspring are fed cold chips on a Saturday or a Tuesday or any other day of the week. Let's just keep our noses out for once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    There's no question that the poorest children are going to lose out under austerity. It might be the worst and most thoughtless parents doing this, but the kids are suffering so we need to help them. Can't believe the jokes from those who don't want to believe it's happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    In other news, millions of children worldwide are dying daily due to extreme poverty and famine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The school acts in loco parentis whilst the child is there, so they have full responsibility for the child as if they were the parent. So yes, they do have the right to ' go poking around in their pupils' lunchboxes'

    Only if it's been chilled fast and quick after cooking - otherwise it can be very unhealthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    This survey was carried out among 253 "youth workers, childminders, teachers, family intervention workers, doctors, paediatricians, staff from further education colleges and hospitals", online via SurveyMonkey. So, a couple of questions: how many of the respondents found "cold chips and fish fingers" in a packed lunch? And how many respondents were teachers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    If they can't afford to feed the child then they shouldn't be having them, simple as. Like a few comments already said, how many of them have a wide screen tv, all sorts of game consoles, the latest phone, smoke, drink etc but can't even afford to feed and cloth their children. Disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I think chips get bad press. Whilst they are not the most amazingly healthy food, they technically are one of your 5 a day being a vegetable. Also note how a jacket potato with butter and cheese equals the same thing, I.e potato and fat but its ok because chips are working class and jacket potatoes arent. There are more calories in a jacket potato with butter / cheese than a small portion of chips

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Oats, mixed nuts and milk...that's all i eat for lunch. max 2 pound per meal.
    Please don't blame this on government cuts.
    it's all about poor parenting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Do you reckon any of our political elite is sending their kids to school with cold chips in their lunch boxes? If we can throw 75 million pound at a failed police election, fund terrorism in Syria and waste money on a weapons system which will never see use im sure there is some way of cutting working families taxes and giving us a much needed break from Gideon propping up his city chums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Not really. In order to qualify for free school meals, the parents have to qualify for benefits. So when the parents lose their benefits (which is government policy these days) the children lose the free school means and a bit more money is saved from government spending.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    When you can get free school dinners why would you bother struggling to pay for a packed lunch?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Spot on, Mr Bough. I can't get enough processed horsemeat, but my kids live on organic veg alone.
    But seriously, there's a danger this will end with kids being forced into school meals, even when they're repulsive. We need to be allowed a little responsibility; that way we won't blame everyone else whenever anything goes wrong. See more:

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    My single mother worked full-time whilst we were growing up to make ends meet but even then things were tough and we were 'entitled' to precisely ZERO additional assistance from the state. Those of you automatically assuming that there's nobody between those entitled to free school meals and those that can afford to eat better quality food are incredibly naive.


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