Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Free School Meals

Why did my heart sink when I heard the news about Free School Meals for all infants? Surely it's a good thing that more kids in these poverty-striken times (and no, I don't think I am exaggerating there - so many families are struggling right now) are getting at least one decent meal a day?

However, I just don't think this is the best way to spend £600 million pounds! For starters this blanket spending on all families is in no way targeting the individuals who are struggling. In fact, if they wanted to support families of young children, why not contribute more to child benefit or food vouchers? Will this really help those who are struggling when providing a packed lunch of whole meal sandwich, piece of fruit, some veg sticks and some snacks is probably one of the cheaper meals to buy? 

I also worry, even in this day and age of Jamie's School Dinners that school meals leave a lot to be desired. And I work in a school! Yes, my first school had a resident chef who provided well-cooked and exciting meals, but that is not the norm, I can tell you. In fact many primary schools, severely strapped for space - they can't even fit in the kids - have no facilities for cooking meals so this will all be out sourced to private companies. Who is going to benefit most, I wonder?

We always aim to eat together as a family each night. I think it's vital that we sit down as a family, no TV, and chat about our day. Our boys are served up with the same meal as us, and although I wouldn't say they are that adventurous yet, they are getting there. A now eats curry, dipping in his naan bread and eating with a spoon. Harry's favourite is pasta. I'd like to know what happens to our family meal when the boys are having a cooked dinner at school? No doubt they will want something lighter, which will remove the family feel to out meal times.

How about puddings? I'm not going to lie , our boys often have a pudding in the evening. This ranges from fromage frais, fruit, jelly to the odd cake or ice cream. Some are more healthy than others. However, I'm not keen on the traditional 'school dinner puddings' of stodgy sponge drenched in custard and syrup, which I understand are still commonplace. I don't really like the idea of my four-year-old filling up on that, especially when I don't know what else he has had. Equally I'm perhaps contradicting myself, but I wouldn't be happy with someone who is not his parent 'punishing' him by not allowing him to eat a pudding because he doesn't  like the dinner. And when he comes home after a full meal and pudding at school, am I still going to feel free to enjoy our baking escapades or will
I worry about what he's already had that week?

And there lies the real root of the matter for me. I am the parent in this equation. I wish to retain autonomy and responsibility. I want to send a lunchbox and see the evidence of what he has and hasn't eaten. If he hasn't eaten much fruit and veg that week I want to know. If he's feeling under the weather I want to send his favourites. I resent an arbitrary decision being made in the capital claiming to be 'levelling' society. I am confident in my abilities of a parent and there are far worse things the government *should* be worrying about than what I give my kids for lunch.


  1. Yep, bonkers. Another headline grabbing story that makes no sense. No way a whole bunch of schools are going to be able to offer anything tasty or healthy. Still few years until Matilda gets there and no doubt it'll have changed by then :)

    1. True it may have changed... It's only the September after next for Matilda though ;-) this time next year you will be visiting schools! Scary stuff!