Ban packed lunches, head teachers urged


Petchey Academy in London has banned packed lunches

Related Stories

Head teachers in England are being urged to ban packed lunches to increase the take-up of school dinners and promote healthy eating.

A government-commissioned school food review by two founders of the Leon restaurant chain says take-up is low at 43% despite huge quality improvements.

Packed lunches are nearly always less nutritious than a cooked meal, say the authors of the School Food Plan.

Revised food-based standards are to be tested and introduced from 2014.

These are likely to replace the extremely stringent guidelines which control the regularity with which food groups and processed items are offered.

The report describes the process by which they are applied as a "finnicky" one and claims staff need to use a computer program to implement them.

It added: "Many caterers told us they spent hours fiddling about with recipes trying to make the computer say 'yes', only to see children make a mockery of their efforts by assembling a plate full of food that looks nothing like their efforts."

The new standards will be applied them to maintained schools and all new academies and free schools, the Department for Education said.

Head teachers are also being urged to lower the price of lunches to boost take-up. This might include providing subsidised meals for reception classes in primary schools and Year 7 classes in secondary schools, the report says.

And there are calls for free meals to be extended to all primary schools, starting in the most deprived areas of England. The government says it will investigate the case for extending free school meals entitlement.

School dinners The review found most schools provide good quality meals

The Department for Education ordered the review by restaurateurs Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent into the state of school meals in 2012 following strong criticism from TV chef Jamie Oliver, who earlier led a successful campaign to ban junk and processed food from school canteens.

This resulted in tight nutritional guidelines and healthy eating policies in many schools for those bringing packed lunches.

But in 2011 he claimed that standards were being eroded because academies and free schools were exempt from national nutritional guidelines.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "What I'd like to see is more children eating school lunches and fewer having packed lunches, and more children feeling healthier and more energetic throughout the day."

'Turkey twizzler'

Start Quote

While encouraging all students to eat a nutritious hot lunch is the right aim, it is not always feasible”

End Quote Brian Lightman ASCL general secretary

Mr Dimbleby told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that school food had improved since the "dark days of the turkey twizzler," but that the proportion of children eating school meals was not high enough.

He stressed that more than half of children brought packed lunches into schools but that around two-thirds contained crisps or confectionery.

"The best schools, the schools with good food, find ways of making packed lunches the least exciting option," he added.

If packed lunches were banned, schools would be able to provide better meals at a cheaper price, and this would help boost children's performance, he argued.

Packed lunches are understood to be banned in just a very small number of schools, but the DfE insists it is possible and that many schools do not realise that.

Mr Dimbleby later told reporters: "I would ban packed lunches if it was my school but I think there are other ways. There's a strong libertarian streak in the English and some head teachers might think that's a battle they don't want to fight."

The review suggests that items such as sugary drinks, crisps and confectionery be forbidden from lunch boxes. In reality many schools already have healthy packed lunch policies banning such items.

General secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers Russell Hobby said he felt it probably was not feasible for schools to ban packed lunches.

Obesity rates

He thought it was right, instead, to focus on making school meals more attractive in terms of cost and access as well as nutritional content, taste and presentation.

He added: "It is hard for students to concentrate on learning when they haven't eaten enough or when they've eaten the wrong things. The benefits from investing in decent cooked meals are huge: better learning and better habits later in life; a calm and sociable lunch hall also sets a tone for the rest of the day."

The Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman added: "While encouraging all students to eat a nutritious hot lunch is the right aim, it is not always feasible. Many hardworking families on relatively low incomes give their children packed lunches because they don't qualify for free school meals and the cost of a school dinner would be prohibitive."

Labour said exempting academies had allowed junk food to "creep back" into schools and it urged the government to enforce food standards across the board.

Leon founder Henry Dimbleby: "We do need to make packed lunch the less attractive option"

Shadow children's minister Sharon Hodgson said when the country was in the middle of a childhood obesity crisis, it was important that schools were doing their part to improve diets.

"Labour vastly improved the quality of school food after Jamie Oliver's important campaign."

But she accused David Cameron and Michael Gove of deliberately undermining that progress by exempting academies and free schools from Labour's rules.

Labour also pointed out that academies and free schools set up between 2010 and Jan 2014 would be under no obligation to sign up to the food standards

Wonderful pies

Other recommendations include: After-school cooking lessons for parents and children, more schools to have stay-on-site rules for break and lunch time, and for teachers to be encouraged to sit in the dining hall with children. And there is to be a £16m cash injection to boost the take-up of meals.

The report comes as the obesity rate among children at the end of primary school has risen to almost one in five.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society, said all children in poverty should receive a free school meal and urged the government to use its planned consultation on the future of free school meals to make sure no child in poverty misses out.

Linda Cregan, head of the Children's Food Trust, said: "The pledge of funding to give thousands of schools practical help with increasing take up is very welcome, as is investment to create new breakfast clubs in places where children are in greatest need.

"At a time when so many families on low incomes are struggling with the costs of food, we look forward to progress on the commitments to look at extending free school meals to more children and the call for universal free school meals in all primary schools."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    Can the Schools guarantee the food is organic, local where possible, free range and the meat is NOT hallal?
    I wish to retain my right to determine what standards I place on the food I provide.
    Not take any crap from the cheapest bidder.
    Anyone else wondering which senior Tory has links to the catering trade?

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    I am extremly concious about mine and my daughters diet. We eat no meat and very little processed food or dairy.
    584. where am I Replied - Though I think someone could make an argument over whether thats a healthy diet for a growing child

    The only people who would make such an argument is someone who doesn't actually understand nutrition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    I completely do not agree with this profit making proposal by Mr Dimbleby.
    School lunches will never be healthy - carbs, tasteless overcooked veg For a term I had my daughter on school meals but she never ate and always turned home hungry. The reason is, I have my daughter on very healthy balanced packed lunches on a monthly menu, I wouldnt have any other way Teachers marvek at her lunches!

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    Depends what the school meals are. I’m not sure how a burger and chips is any better than a sandwich and a packet of crisps. And do they give puddings with the school meal? A pudding is totally unnecessary at lunch time, but again, no different to a chocolate bar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    My son's school meals are very poor. His packed lunch (the contents of which are limited by the school) are much healthier and he makes it himself.
    And yet you dont seem to have a problem with the fact that your school dictates what you can and can't put in your own kids lunch box? If parents can't look after their kids take them into care, otherwise they should butt out

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    @674 - Pork pies? I think you'll find they're on the list of banned foods....

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    157.- "Also I am not happy for my child to be force fed Halal meet. It is cruel inhumane way of killing an animal that is dictated by a middle eastern religion in a predominantly CHRISTIAN country whilst taking business from BRITISH companies in favor for foreign!!!"

    Its not as cruel as stunning the animals to death, I can tell you that much,
    You dont have a problem with kosher meat then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    I agree that they do need to make packed lunch the less attractive option but it would be outrageous to ban it. Moreover, families with un-healthy habits will still provide 2 out of 3 main meals to their kids showing the pack lunch-ban proposal useless. The education of parents and attractive school meals should be the supported measures instead

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    Nanny State Mentality! I thought we left that behind with the demise of the out-of-date labour party? But this is more of an issue where we have "Think Tanks" staffed by people that have never had a day's proper work in their lives. Committees are not real life!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.

    A terrible attempt to force people into buying school meals to increase revenue stream. Nothing more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    Who is driving this proposed change? - maybe privately owned companies providing school meals? -- seems a good lobby/PR company can be a worthwhile investment for some businesses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    Its all very well saying educate but when people choose to ignore it and go for the easy option and then children are brought up like that not knowing any better bless them because of the lack of responsibility of the adults. The info is out there for the adults (yes a bit more can be done in schools for kids benefit) but if the examples not set at home....

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    LOL, the numbers of diabolical packed lunches does not relate to the number of HYS comments who say they provide healthy lunches.

    Someone is telling or eating too many pork pies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    This patronising, out-of-touch, ignoramus can go take a flying ...... There's enough interference as it is, in fact, I've just challenged our primary about getting funny about chocolate, etc, when their school dinners are overcooked with, often, a fat-laced, sticky rubbish pudding.
    Sure, watch out for the worst, but a sandwich, fruit, yoghurt and small treat is FINE - get out of our hair!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    Typical nonsense, see a problem, ban something. Makes me laugh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    My son's (primary) school meals are very poor. His packed lunch (the contents of which are limited by the school) are much healthier and he makes it himself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    Surely the European Convention on Human Rights would have something to say on the subject.

    Compulsory schooling plus having to eat what is prescribed by the school is tantamount to the force-feeding of children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    No. It's only recently that some school authorities discovered untracked horsemeat in school meals. And now there's some question about bTB-ifnected beef being used as well.

    I hardly think education authorities are in any position to instruct me on the contents of my son's lunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    If packed lunches are to be banned, school meals should be free with options to cater (sorry) for special dietary needs, religion-driven prohibitions and so on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    Funnily enough, this idea coincides with the raising of school meal prices from £1.95 per day to £2.

    I'm sorry but for £40 quid a month I can make my child a packed lunch 5 times more nutritious than a dinnerlady would even know possible. It's not just Sandwiches, Crisps and Chocolate you know.

    Anyway, just another way to demand money from us and leave us no choices.


Page 20 of 54


More Education & Family stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.