Tuesday 17 June 2014

Schools dinners aren't what's making children fat


We're off again in the latest piece of ill-informed nannying fussbucketry about schools dinners.

Education secretary Michael Gove will unveil a crackdown on fatty and sweet foods on Tuesday as part of new standards on school meals.

Milk must also be available to primary and secondary pupils during the school day under the new rules which come into force in January.

Pupils will only be offered two portions of deep-fried, battered and breadcrumb-coated foods each week under the rules outlined by Gove.

Pastry-based dishes will be subject to the same restrictions, schools will be completely banned from offering chocolate and confectionery in canteens and tuck shops, and salt will not be available for pupils to add to food after it is cooked.

This is a compete triumph for the worrywarts at the School Food Trust as a bunch of professional health fascists get to determine the menu for school dinners. And the saddest part of this is that all this unjustified interference won't make the slightest jot of difference to levels of obesity in children. I know this because it's not the school dinners that make the children fat, it's all the stuff they cram in their mouths during the rest of the day. No, not fast food but crisps, sweets, cakes - the contents of Mum's cupboard - that is the problem (and I'm accepting the 'official' view that childhood obesity is at 'epidemic' levels despite the rates actually falling).

Children are fed just one meal each day by the school. And the contents of that meal (assuming it's not actively poisonous) is, if children are eating three meals each day, less than a quarter of the food those children eat. Not a single child will get slimmer because of this intervention and some may, as the dinner becomes less calorific, actually suffer because that calorie rich dinner is the only decent meal they'll get that day.



Anonymous said...

Agreeing with your thrust but, in practice, school meals represent a maximum of only 15% of any child's annual meal-intake - you are right that it's the other 85%, provided by the 'caring parents', which causes any problem.

That said, the major fault with school meals today is choice - in the dim, dark, dismal schooldays of yore and mine, there was only one choice - you either ate the standard offered meal or not. No choices, no options, no alternatives, no veggies, vegans or faddy religious zealotry, just a standard, wholesome, filling meal - if you didn't want that, then go home for lunch.
That simple and very efficient approach is the only way to gain any nutritional advancement in the school-feeding issue. But I bet you dare not suggest it in Bradford Council.

Jonathan Bagley said...

I agree with anon and that there would be problems implementing a no choice rule. However it was reported in yesterday's DT that an academy had successfully adopted the no choice rule. A few children went on temporary hunger strike, but eventually hunger got the better of them. Presumably you don't enroll if it's an unsurmountable problem.