Today we've been inundated with the proposals to ban children having packed lunches:
Packed lunches could be banned and pupils barred from leaving school during breaks to buy junk food under a government plan to increase the take-up of school meals, which is to be announced on Friday.
The plan, drawn up by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, the founders of the food company Leon, aims to tackle the poor public image of school meals.
Now leaving aside the crassly illiberal nature of these proposals, we should note that this simply doesn't work as a strategy for improving child nutrition. How do we know this? Because, as Carl Minns points out, Hull City Council did just this by combining universal free lunches with draconian policing of the lunch box. And they asked Hull University to evaluate the effect. And they found:
The free healthy school dinners were not having the desired effect of improving children’s nutritional intake, children chose to eat the foods they liked and left the rest. Children who ate a free healthy school dinner went on to consume foods high in energy, fat, NME sugar and sodium later in the day and overall did not have a lower intake of these macronutrients than those children who had a packed lunch.
For adherents to the church of public health the proposals look good, sound good and get squealingly positive responses from sofa-bound BBC TV presenters. The problem is that - like most public health gimmicks they don't work.