If the comments in Britmums and Mumsnet are anything to go on, a school lunch box ban seems like another possible Coalition home-goal.
To be honest, I had to read the original article in the Telegraph twice, and check the date on my calendar. No, it’s not April 1st.
Apparently, the Department of Education has commissioned Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, founders of the fast food chain Leon, to review school lunches. They chose this weekend to announce their “interim” findings to the Sunday Times (coincidently timed with the Government’s proposals for “compulsory” cooking lessons in school).
Sadly, the Sunday Times is subscription only, so I shall reproduce here the crux of their argument (as reported).
The best way to rescue it, they say, is for parents to switch the £2bn spent each year on packed lunches to school meals. “What we need to do is lift uptake from 40% to 80% over five years to make school meals solvent again,” said Dimbleby. “Rather than ask government to subsidise a structurally bust system we want the system to become solvent by getting more customers to pay for school dinners.”
So, don’t look at it as a ban, more a compulsory opt-in.
There’s even a bit of a swipe at National Treasure, Jamie Oliver. Apparently, take-up of school meals has dropped by 40% making them unviable in many cases, “partly because of criticism by campaigners such as Oliver.” Nothing to do with rubbish food then.
In a week of food stories (don’t even get me on the school dinners/horse burger connection), you may well have missed the news that the Government are not going to continue to fund the Children’s Food Trust after 31st March 2013. To be fair, the funding cut has been on the cards for some time (coincidently pretty much since the announcement of the Dimbleby/Vincent Review). It’s a move that hasn’t gone down well with Oliver.
Looking at the Children’s Food Trust website, it is also a bit of a pity. Far from being food-fascists (sorry, couldn’t resist borrowing the phrase from the Daily Mail), they offer some practical advice for parents. These include packed lunch ideas. And one of the great things about them is that they are all voluntary.
For me, that’s the crux of the matter. Suggest, but don’t preach. And certainly don’t legislate on what we should be feeding our kids. It’s rare that a one-size-fits-approach works. For example, J has cystic fibrosis and needs a high-fat, high-calorie diet because his body can’t process fat. (Yep, he’s that kid with a medically prescribed Mars bar in his lunch box. Joking aside, some children with cystic fibrosis have struggled to keep weight on after the introduction of inflexible “healthy” food policies.)
However, if you’re sceptical of Dimbleby and Vincents’ proposals, take heart. We could have a cage-fighter, and would-be MP, on the case.
Strangely silent in recent days, Alex Reid was calling for a ban on packed lunches back in April. Reid proposed investment in school meals through his Let’s Do Lunch scheme (a mega bucket of sponsorship opportunities and direct marketing to parents).
Now Alex Reid is many things, but Jamie Oliver he ain’t.
Am I the only one who can see which way this is heading?