Friday, 6 February 2009

School Dinner versus Packed Lunch

This subject can make me a bit cross...

For the record Little has packed lunch and has done since the end of Reception, when he was still four years old. He chose packed lunch because he said they overcooked the veg. He wasn't being a fussy eater he just didn't like the food they gave him. As he eats virtually everything that is served to him at home or when we're out and about I know that he wasn't being fussy. It was only because my friend worked in the school and saw that he was sitting there pushing his food around, and was still sat there long after everybody else had left the dining hall. Thankfully because she'd seen how much he eats at home she could tell that he wasn't eating very much. We made the decision to swap him over to packed lunch and I've not regretted that decision.

Yes, I know the take up for school lunches is poor but that's because they still haven't got it right. I also know that for some children it is the only decent meal they'll get but that doesn't mean I have to feel guilty for opting out and going for packed lunches.

Whilst our packed lunches are not quite Bento style, they're made with love and they're full of good things. Packed Lunch can get a bit boring but I don't believe that it has to be a poor relative to school dinners. I also really don't like it when I choose to put a little treat in the packed lunch and it gets frowned upon. The kids having school dinners quite often have sweet treats, at least 3 times a week so why shouldn't I put something sweet in. I do it once in a while but if I did want to do it every day then why shouldn't I. I've also never put crisps in his packed lunch, mainly because he's not a big fan of crisps. I'm on a rant... can you tell?

An average packed lunch that leaves this house consists of a sandwhich or wrap, always salad and a piece of fruit with a carton of fruit juice. Occasionally I'll do a pasta, rice or couscous salad. We did buy a flask to do hot food but he never quite got on with opening it safely. If anybody can recommend any good ones that are easy for young ones to open, I'm all ears.

Anyway, for the moment and until schools can get it right we're sticking with packed lunches and when Small goes full time soon, he'll be having packed lunch too.

Some links that you might find interesting.
Food for Thought: Why haven't school dinners got any better? Article from the Independent newspaper with an interview with the famous Prue Leith, who heads up the School Food Trust. It makes interesting reading.

Lunchinabox - Beautiful Bento Lunches

The Daily Tiffin - They always have a lunch box spotlight.

The Great Big Veg Challenge - Charlotte and Co. have swapped over to packed lunches.

P.S. I should just add that nobody at our school has made me feel bad about packed lunch, though there was a comment about sweet treats...


Asha said...

I packed lunch for my daughter while in school since she liked sandwiches, yogurt, apple juice etc., never made fuss but my son likes to eat at school everyday.
They do tell me about the mushy, nasty vegetables there though and once or twice, Tushar had food poisoning from "warm" hot dogs in school cafe. So he won't touch that now. Wish he would take lunch from home,but...
Glad your son likes packed lunch, pack it as long as he is willing to have it! :)

Cynthia said...

My mom insisted on packed lunches. It was only when we would reach 4th form and we wanted to be cool that we would buy lunch at school.

Jenny said...

It sounds like someone has been trying to make you feel guilty for providing a healthy lunch your child will actually eat at school. Shame on them.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Both our boys requested to pack their lunches to school. I'm with you.

Sylvie said...

I haven't got any kids yet, but I think from what I hear (from friends) and see on telly, I'd choose to go for packed lunch too.

Cottage Smallholder said...

I think that you are doing the right thing. Your packed lunches sound delicious and packed with goodness to get him through the afternoon.

Most of my friends send their kids to school with packed lunches if the school food isn't very appetising.

Margaret said...

I wish schools would look to Jeanette Orrey the original Dinner Lady who tried to improve the food eaten in schools by our children.
Jamie Oliver based his campaign on Jeanette after meeting and hearing about her wonderful school meals.
In her books she does recipes for 96 servings and then scales down to 4 servings. So, why, oh way can't schools follow her lead?

Baking Soda said...

Looks like someone thinks that different is synonymous for wrong. Nope, different is just that. Keep it packed (including sweets every now and then), I'm sure they are far better than what they get in school.

I'm glad I'm in Holland where packed lunches consists of sandwiches and something to drink. ;-)

Kelly-Jane said...

Mine has had school linches, but has recently been requesting packed ones. Another of my gripes is that they eat them off plastic trays not plates. I need one of those 'mad' smilies here!

Elle said...

The food police just seem to proliferate. Packed lunches are healthy (or can be), economical, and suited to the child. What on earth could be wrong with that? I used to get comments, too, because my son liked routine so much that he ate the exact same foods every day for the whole school year...including a small cookie bar. I'm sure you son is lucky to have such delicious and nutrititious packed lunches!

Joanna said...

A mother's place is in the wrong. Just ignore the critics, you have to do what is best for your own children, and if that's packed lunch with a treat - then good on you. How wonderful to have a boy that eats most things

People are so judgemental, hard to know why, or what pleasure they get from it


KJ said...

I had a biscuit put in with my packed lunch every day that I was at school. I seemed to have made it through life okay. a small treat is enjoyable. and life is for enjoying.

Aimée said...

When I have to start making lunches for the boys, I'll come to you for advice, Amanda! You're doing a great job.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Oh man...I hate school politics.

Since Little Man only goes half day, he eats lunch at home. But next year he will go full day and I will be packing lunches. Why? Why not let him have the school lunch? Because he won't eat it. Offer him a trip to fast food vs. a homemade lunch and he'll choose homemade every time. As for the sweet treat...seriously, so long as they eat a balanced diet, what's the harm in a little treat??

Gemma said...

I used to have a penguin or a kit-kat in my lunchbox every day and I seem to be doing ok as an adult... Ignore them!

Takeaway said...

It's the only way you really know what it is they eat.

David Hall said...

Hi Amanda

Of ocurse you will know this is a subject very close to my heart. It is a hard subject for me because I try to encourage the children I teach to eat hot school meals but often it is terrible. But then you look at the average pack lunch and it is a nightmare. So what do we do?! Anyway, good to see you are being the top mum I know you are and handing out brilliant pack lunches. Hope life is good.

Dave x

Rosie said...

I always packed my children up with lunch, but they used to like the breakfast club in a mornng!

Rosie x

Cheryl A said...

My only experience witosh school dinners is through Jamie Oliver. Kudos for you for not letting the kids eat that crap.

Jackie said...

I would never ever condemn a parent for creating a lovely tasty packed lunch for their child but I am passionate about persuading parents to get involved in the fight to improve school food.

My reasons are:

1) It ensures that those kids on free school meals actually get a good wholesome meal

2) The economy of scale mean that we can force authorites to purchase good quality ingredients and properly train catering staff

3) It is better for the planet.

Now I know from personal experience just how crap school dinners can be. I was involved in a real fight with my local authority to stop them serving substandard food. We had a huge battle involving hundreds of parents but it was so worth it. The authority invested in £5million for kitchens in every school and they ripped up the old contract and started again. School food is not perfect in Merton but it is so much better than it was. You can see pictures of it on my blog

Now the food is so improved in Merton I do encourage parents to at least encourage their children to try it. Our numbers have gone up and many children are now eating a much wider range of fruit and veg that they ever did with packed lunch

Please don't misunderstand me - I am not suggesting anyone tolerate poor quality school lunches but if they are bad - insist your school improve them. After all you wouldn't tolerate a dangerous climbing frame in the playground.

Yes of course, do the best you can for your own child but even if you choose packed lunch please encourage your school to put their school meal problems right for the sake of the free school meal kids.

I am really not trying to make anyone feel guilty but I want to make the case for increasing school dinner uptake for social justice, green reasons and an attempt to alter eating habits amongst our young.

Rant over - just don't get me started on prison trays , physical divide between packed lunch and school dinner kids, noise levels and dirty tables!


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