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School packed lunches face ban

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
girl eating unhealthy lunch

12th July 2013 - Some schools may ban packed lunches as part of a new campaign to get more children in England eating school dinners.

Pupils could also be prevented from leaving school during breaks to buy food.

The measures are part of The School food plan drawn up on behalf of the government by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, the founders of the food company Leon.

Despite previous campaigns, including those led by Jamie Oliver, take-up of school food remains stubbornly low. 57% of children either have packed lunches or buy food outside school.

The Department for Education says only 1% of packed lunches meet current school food nutritional standards and two-thirds contain sweets, sugary drinks and savoury snacks, including crisps.

A third of children finish primary school overweight.

Healthy eating proposals

Suggested actions in the plan include:

  • Make sure packed lunches are not more exciting than school lunches.
  • Ban sugary drinks, crisps and confectionery.
  • Offer prizes and incentives for bringing in a healthy lunch.
  • Ban packed lunches altogether.
  • No leaving school to buy food, have a stay-on-site rule for break and lunch time.
  • Cutting the cost of school meals, possible subsidies for reception and year 7 classes for the first term.
  • Teachers should be encouraged to eat with the children in the dining hall.
  • Have a cashless payment system for shorter queues and to avoid embarrassment for children who get free school meals.
  • Offer after school cooking lessons for parents with their children.
  • Monitor mid-morning break eating, as many children eat their main meal at this time.

Previously academies and free schools were exempt from nutritional targets. Now the Department for Education will work on new nutritional food standards for maintained schools and all new academies and free schools.

'Fuel' for school children

In a statement launching the plans, Henry Dimbleby says: "We need to ensure that children have the fuel they need in order to be happy and healthy and perform well at school. The best schools worry about what’s going on in children’s bodies as well as their minds."

John Vincent added: "It means cooking food that is both appetising and nutritious, making the dining hall a welcoming place, keeping queues down, getting the price right, allowing children to eat with their friends; getting them interested in cooking and growing."

Education secretary Michael Gove says: "What I’d like to see is more children eating school lunches and fewer having packed lunches, and more children feeling healthier and more energetic throughout the day."


Children's Food Trust chief executive Linda Cregan has welcomed the plans in a statement: "The recipe for a good school lunchtime is a classic, and this plan is a reminder of the key ingredients and how they all need to work together."

However, she cautions: "It’s now eight years since Jamie’s original school meals manifesto and the last national review of school meals. In another eight years, I hope we’re talking about this plan as one which galvanised government, politicians, head teachers and other school meals leaders to keep up a sustained commitment to, and support for, good food in all schools, and for all of those who deliver it.”

Jamie Oliver tweeted: "Congratulations to @JohnV_LEON and @Henry_Leon on their #SchoolFoodPlan announced today I am really excited to see the plans in action."

Reviewed on July 12, 2013

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