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...