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@prueleith was in the news earlier this week after she made a call for a ban on packed lunches, claiming that most are filled with junk. Her comments have caused much debate and discussion. Having done a lot of work on school food over the last 2 years I thought I’d post on this. Research has shown that only 1% of packed lunches meet nutrition standards. In England, primary school children in reception, year one and two are able to get free school meals (applies to Government funded schools), however uptake can vary for many reasons. Where schools do allow children to bring in a packed lunch, they should have a policy in place that details what a healthy packed lunch should & shouldn’t include (if you’re a parent of school age children, check what your school does!).

So if you choose to offer your child a packed lunch, what should it include? A portion of starchy carbohydrates, e.g. bread, wrap, flatbread, bagel, pitta, cooked pasta, potato or rice; at least one portion of vegetables and/or fruit (think bite-sized & pre-prepared!); a portion of beans, pulses, eggs, fish or meat; a portion of dairy including either plain yoghurt, cheese or milk. Water should be the drink of choice, but may also include milk, fruit juice or a smoothie (the latter 2 should be no more than 150ml per day). The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) have some nice helpful resources for support here. Even with the best will in the world & juggling our busy schedules, I don’t doubt making a daily packed lunch is hard. Some schools have taster sessions for parents & children to eat together & try out the school food, this can be a good way to test it out.

Ultimately we all want children to enjoy the whole school food experience whatever they eat. The environment (is it noisy, is there enough space?) & having enough time for activities & to play outdoors all adds to the overall experience, so check with your school on these points.

I’d welcome all thoughts on this. What do your children eat during lunchtime…packed lunch or food provided by the school? What works well for your family?! X