Farewell to the school tuck shop

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Chocolate and confectionery will be banned from English school tuck shops. It's the end of a sugar-coated era, says Jon Kelly.

In playgrounds across England, Space Dust will blow away. Cola cubes will lose their fizz. The sale of gobstoppers will, er, stop.

School tuck shops gave many children the thrill of spending one's own pocket money for the first time. They also provided a sugar rush to get pupils through double geography. Now the government plans to forbid them from selling sweets and chocolates. It's a move that has been hailed by nutritionists. But some nostalgics will mourn the loss.

Wham bars. Sherbet fountains. Refreshers. Sour cherries. The inflation-defying Space Raiders, the 10p price tag of which survived longer than the Weimar Republic existed as a political entity.

The term "tuck shop" itself helped. It sounded cosy and comforting. It also had an association with privilege - according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest published reference to one appears in the 1857 Rugby-set novel Tom Brown's School Days ("Come along down to Sally Harrowell's; that's our School-house tuck shop - she bakes such stunning murphies").

Tuck shops became a fixture of state-run schools too, selling foam shrimps, bon-bons and Marathon bars to the masses.

"It's colours and sights and sounds tastes," says Steve Berry, co-author of The Great British Tuck Shop. "It's the first time you make a consumer choice that's not guided by your parents."

But increasingly the sale of high-sugar products to children in educational establishments has come under attack in a country where 18.9% of Year 6 children are obese.

"Healthy" tuck shops selling milk, fruit and rice cakes instead of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks have been pioneered in many areas. And now, under the new guidelines, tuck shops will be banned from selling chocolate and confectionery in all maintained schools and in new academies and free schools.

But still. Many a palate was formed in the tuck shop. "It was a temple of idolatry," recalls food writer Nigel Barden of the one at his school. Plus, the meals he was served "were so bad that without tuck we wouldn't have survived".

Fill up your white paper bag while you can.

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