Thursday, 29 December 2011

School Dinners to compete with Takeaway

The nation is getting more and more rounded as time goes on. I'm guilty of it, I can't say no to a KFC dinner with Miss Bell or to a Double Cheese Burger after work on my way home, this coupled with pass times that don't involve me leaving my house and a job where I spend my day sat down has led me to put on a bit of weight. Obviously when Sophie gets older and I'm chasing her boyfriends up the street wielding a rolled up newspaper regularly I'll be a bit more spry!

Seriously, it is an affliction that is hitting the nation as fast and convenient food and a lack of time for good old home cooking is leading to people having bad diets. How many times have you thought as I have;

Bugger it, I can't be bothered to cook I'll go to the Fish 'n' Chip shop/Chinese/Curry house/ order pizza... ?

A few ideas have been bandied around including a Fat Tax on high calorie food or a start up tax on take aways and even tighter Zoning laws to keep take aways at a further distance to schools to protect the young.

Obesity and the health complaints related to poor diet is hitting the NHS hard and an already stretched budget is struggling to cope with all of the calls on its time and resources and with growing levels of youth obesity the Government has stepped forward to assist using the good old Liberal ideal of competition in the market place.

In 1980 Margaret Thatcher's government removed the minimum nutritional standard from school dinners meaning that schools could turn out any food they chose and that the meal did not have to equal a main meal of the day for kids. This was turned around by Labour in 2004 after exposure from Jamie Oliver's expo Jamie's school dinners.
The problem is that kids are still finding a portion of chips down at the chippy is cheaper than a proper meal at school. Even a Big Mac meal is around £3.50 where as you could easily spend £5 on a school meal.

Under current legislation for schools to vary the prices for their dinners they need to appeal to the Secretary of state for education to do so which is obviously a long process that is a waste of time.

Cue Sarah Teather MP, Lib Dem Children's minister.

School meals beat takeaways hands down on the quality of food they serve but until now they have struggled to compete on price. Getting Children into the school canteen is vital - the benefits of healthy school meals are clear.

 Now Meal Deals can be pitched by the schools and they can compete. Offer a main course with a selection of drinks and a dessert for £4's and it might tempt kids to eat in rather than trudge out.

Other initiatives such as moves to let parents pay for the children's dinners on line means that parents can keep a track of their children's habits and also remove the need children to carry money which is easily lifted from them by bullies. As a mouthy ginger kid at school who attracted a fair amount of unwanted attention I can agree with that.

Will the schools over price their meals?

It is a fair question and one that the more sensible and thrifty parents will ask. It is a possibility however the aim is to get people off the streets and back in the dining hall and the best way to do this is to keep the prices low. As far as I can see this is a win win for schools (who will drum up more business) and the consumers (as more healthy options mean healthier children).

The only downside is that Michael Gove has had an 80's throw back moment and has removed the obligation of Academies and Free schools to provide a basic nutritional standard. Jamie Oliver has already attacked this decision and with a growing number of Academies it would totally undo the moves by Ms Teather if only half of the educational establishments did offer healthy meals.

Source; Richard Gardiner Schools to offer Pupils meal deals to combat lure of cheap takeaways, I, page 4, 29/12/2011

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