School Meals and your Child's Health
In recent years the debate has raged over the standard of school meals and as to how they are prepared and what effect they have – or can have – on your child’s eating habits.
NutritionAll meals provided by any local education authority must meet a particular nutritional standard as laid down in guidelines issued in September 2006. These guidelines have been put in place to ensure that your child receives a balanced healthy diet, which should consist of regular amounts of oily fish (containing Omega 3) poultry (chicken, turkey etc) and meat of a high quality such as beef, lamb, pork etc. The guidelines also insist upon at least two portions of fruit and/or vegetables are readily available with every meal and that potato, cereals and breads are also on the menu.
Junk FoodAs we all know our children love junk food of all sorts from chips and burgers to confectionery such as chocolate, crisps and carbonated drinks, bought either prior to entering school or from vending machines on school property.
The guidelines set down are also used to limit the amount of junk food that your child can consume during the course of the school day and also in the school canteen. There is strong emphasis now on the issue of child obesity which is on the increase in the United Kingdom and local education authorities are charged by the government with the task of – if not cutting it down – at least trying to prevent it surging out of control.
The School Food TrustThe School Food Trust has been set up to help with issues such as those already raised in this article and also to help train canteen staff – both behind and in front of the counter – to help ensure that our children receive a high standard of meal whilst at school and also a meal that offers them a healthy and balanced diet. It also aims to educate children and parents alike as to what is good and what is bad for your child in terms of dietary requirements.
It also assists schools with information, guidance and advice on how to procure the best quality produce for the school meals without paying over the odds for it. In recent years the value of a school meal per child has risen from around 57p per child to 67p whilst in some areas of the United Kingdom, such as County Durham, the value of a school meal per child per day is around £1.50. The School Food Trust aims to level the playing field and make sure that all children receiving school meals receive as high a quality, value for money meal as possible whilst enabling schools to make savings which can be spent elsewhere within the school budget.
Your local education authority and council will be available to provide you with more information and contacting your child’s chosen school prior to their enrolment will also provide you with much needed information.