Head teachers are today being urged to ban packed lunches and lower the price of school meals to promote healthy eating.
I have young children in my family who already tell me that if they take a packed lunch to school, they are not allowed to take junk food- sweets, chocolates, crisps, or fizzy drinks.
I think that is strict enough, although I can understand why it is being done.
However, personally, I can see several problems with the idea of banning packed lunches altogether.
Most importantly, if every child ate school dinners, these would need to be provided for free to every child. However, there are several other points to consider.
Firstly, if every child ate school dinners, would the meat served be Halal or Kosher? Would there be other Kosher food and drink available for those who needed it?
Would every child be expected to eat vegetarian food? If so, in my personal opinion, this in itself would not be a balanced or a healthy diet.
Then, of course, there are severely disabled children to consider. Firstly, at mainstream schools. If schools were to ban packed lunches, lunch staff would have to be prepared to spend extra time mashing or blending food for any severely disabled pupils to eat. If they were not prepared to make this reasonable adjustment, the school would have to be prepared to make exceptions to allow severely disabled children to bring packed lunches containing appropriately prepared food.
I wonder if this rule would apply to special schools for children with severe physical disabilities? For the reason given above, I personally don’t think it should.
Now, here is my fear. We are being told that this plan would be a way of promoting healthy eating. If it was also a reason to reduce inclusion in mainstream education- not only of severely physically disabled children but also of children from religious minorities- would this be considered an added bonus?