Packed lunch ban call hard to swallow

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Parents across South Holland have been chewing over a report calling for unhealthy packed lunches to be banned in a government bid to increase the take-up of school meals.

Headteachers are being urged to back a drive for free meals for under-11s in the report by the food company Leon.

But in the week the Government introduced a cap on household benefits, making the weekly budget even tighter, parents commenting on the Free Press Facebook page said the thought of losing the packed lunch option would be hard to swallow.

Mum Jackie Taylor said: “Who do the Government think they are keep telling us what we can and cannot do with our children?

“Mine has pack lunch because at least I know what he is eating as he goes to the Gleed school and he can buy junk food there.

“They (MPs) have nannies bringing their’s up – they make me sick telling us normal parents what to do.”

Charlene Bishop, of Holbeach, said: “I have four children. How am I supposed to afford to pay nearly £10 a day for school dinners? My children have very good packed lunches and a good cooked meal after school, so I won’t be joining in with this my kids – they will be having what I pack them.”

As well as banning pack-ups and calls for free dinners for under-11s and subsidised meals, the report claims parents spend £1bn on packed lunches, but only one per cent of them meet the nutritional standards required for optimum pupil performance.

Chris Brewis, vice chairman of Lincolnshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, is a firm believer that you are what you eat.

He said: “Educating parents on providing healthy meals is what is important. There seems to be too much stick here and not enough carrot.”

Lisa Meacher, headteacher of Moulton Chapel Primary School, believes any legislation the Government tried to bring in on school meals would be difficult to dish out.

She said: “It isn’t always about money – it’s about choice.

“Here at Moulton Chapel we bring in outside caterers who provide a fortnightly menu so on days the children don’t like what is being served they can bring in a packed lunch.

“We also live in a rural area where children are used to eating vegetables and will eat them in hot meals.

“The take-up is greater in the winter, but our parents support our healthy packed lunch policy and when the weather is good the pupils enjoy having picnics in the field, which is also an important social activity.”

Coun Patricia Bradwell, executive councillor for children’s services at the county council, said: “We’ve been working hard to improve the quality of school food and having a hot lunch in school is a healthy option for children.

“Parents are free to choose if they would prefer their child to have a packed lunch at school, but we would hope they try to ensure this is as healthy as possible.

“We could really encourage people who are eligible to take up free school meals for their children though.

“As well as benefitting the child, it also enables the school to access more funding.”